COLUMBIA, Mo. - You can save yourself some yardwork this year and do your lawn a favor by not bagging those grass clippings you mow, said a University of Missouri Extension turf scientist.

"Grass clippings do not have to be removed to have a healthy, vigorous lawn," said Brad Fresenburg. "With a few simple steps, you can have a beautiful lawn without collecting your grass clippings."

Average mowing time can be reduced 30 percent by not bagging your clippings, he said. Clippings also can provide about 25 percent of your fertilizer needs.

Grass clippings do not contribute to thatch buildup unless the thatch layer is already more than a half-inch thick, Fresenburg said.

Grass clippings contain 80 to 85 percent water and decompose more quickly than other grass plant parts.

Fresenburg suggests mowing more than once a week during the period of rapid growth in spring and early summer. Set your mower to cut at 3 inches. If you are removing more than one-third of the grass leaf, you are not mowing often enough. Keep blades sharp.

Fertilize your lawn to provide uniform, moderate growth throughout the growing season. Fresenburg recommends applying 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of turf. That would require 5 pounds of 20-5-12 fertilizer.

Apply the fertilizer once in spring and twice in fall. Too much fertilizer stimulates unnecessary flushes of leaf growth that may lead to summer damage, he said.

Water your lawn. Cool-season lawns require 1 to 1.5 inches of water each week in the summer from rain or irrigation.

Most hose sprinklers deliver one-quarter to one-third inch of water per hour. Lawns watered too often tend to develop shallow root systems.

Water during the morning when less moisture is lost to evaporation and the grass dries quickly, reducing fungal disease problems.

More information about "Don't Bag It" lawn care is available in MU Extension guide G6959, online at

Author: Robert Thomas