Although the rain we’ve received this year has been instrumental in combating drought conditions, homeowners are likely needing to mow a bit more frequently. So, what should you do with all those grass clippings? The answer is easy … nothing.

Yard waste can be very useful when it’s left in the landscape. In fact, we need to think of grass clippings and fallen leaves more as free fertilizer. There will be quite a few more mowings between now and when the grass goes dormant, so it’s important to keep that yard waste where it belongs.

Yard waste contributes significantly to landfills, increasing the total volume of residential waste by 20 percent to 50 percent during mowing season, which typically begins in March and runs through October, or sometimes even a bit later.

In nature, fallen leaves and dead plants decompose in place and the nutrients in the plant tissues are added back into the soil. The decomposing tissue also adds organic matter to the soil, improving the water and nutrient-holding qualities.

Give back to the soil in your yard by leaving grass clippings in place. Homeowners will save time, energy and money by following the Don’t Bag It lawn care plan. As an added bonus, your lawn will become more efficient at using water, which can put a few extra dollars in your pocket.

The Don’t Bag It plan saves us time in mowing by not bagging clippings, and the mower will be easier to push without the heavy bag attachment. Homeowners save money in the cost of garbage bags and disposal bills. And, as an added bonus, the landfills will last longer when they aren’t filled with plant tissues.

Some people may be concerned grass clippings left in the lawn will contribute to thatch. Thatch is caused by tough runners, rhizomes and roots. Grass clippings are very tender and decompose quickly; therefore, they don’t contribute to thatch.  

The Don’t Bag It plan follows a regular mowing, fertilization and watering schedule. The goal is to have a slow, even-growing lawn. As a rule of thumb for mowing, remove only one-third the leaf blade at a time, which is easily done by adjusting the height of your mower. 

Although you don’t have to use a mulching mower, it will cut the leaf blades very finely, which improves the appearance of the lawn. If you simply can’t leave the grass clippings in place, rather than bagging, add them to your compost pile.

Water and fertilize your lawn regularly, being careful not to over fertilize. Excess fertilization will cause excess growth, increasing your need to mow. Slow-release fertilizers work best with the Don’t Bag It plan.

You can learn more about the “Don’t Bag It” lawn care plan from OSU Fact Sheet L-253. Visit facts.okstate.edu and search for L-253 or Don’t Bag It.

David Hillock is a consumer horticulturist with OSU cooperative extension.