Many homeowners struggle to find the best way to pick up grass clippings. There’s a chance you aren’t using the best and most efficient method.
Depending on your yard’s size and how much time and labor you want to spend, there are several options that can get you a pristine, clipping free yard week after week.
Picking up grass clippings can help ensure a healthy lawn thanks to proper airflow, but there are times when leaving the clippings is beneficial.
You may even be surprised to learn that your grass clippings can be useful around your yard in many ways, so you’ll have an idea of what to do with them once you’ve collected them.
Loose Grass Clipping Pick Up Ideas
Read on for our list of five ways to pick up grass clippings and some products that can make maintaining a vibrant lawn substantially easier.
1. Use a Lawn Sweeper
There are a few different kinds of lawn sweepers, and they all pick up grass trimmings and other small debris and deposit them into a hopper. Lawn sweepers are available as an attachment that you tow behind your lawnmower, or as a standalone device that you push across your yard.
In either case, lawn sweepers are light and easy to maneuver, making them the best way to pick up grass clippings if you want to minimize your effort. Once the clippings get collected in the sweeper, you can either bag them for disposal or add them to your compost pile.
2. Raking and Bagging
One of the more traditional ways of removing grass clippings from your yard is by using a rake. There are multiple kinds of rakes available, so you can find one that works effectively with your particular landscaping.
Some rakes feature a design to collect loose debris and grass clippings in more delicate areas such as near plants. Sometimes these rakes also have adjustable heads to help you collect clippings from hard to reach areas.
A sturdy groundskeeping rake removes general debris and grass clippings effectively without harming the grass or moving around loose bark, mulch, or gravel on the ground. These rakes are light and easy to use for more extended periods but aren’t the best option if your yard is large.
3. Collect as You Mow
Many lawn mowers come with a collection bag that picks up grass clippings and other yard debris such as small sticks and bark chunks as you mow. If your lawnmower doesn’t have this attachment, it’s possible to purchase one as an accessory that fits a variety of different mowers.
If you have a large yard, using a collection bag on your mower will save you a lot of time, and it’s the best way to pick up grass clippings if you use a riding lawnmower.
These collection bags are quite large and can hold a lot of grass clippings that you can then quickly dispose of or add to your compost. When not in use, these bags take up very little space and set up quickly each time you mow.
4. Mow Twice
If you don’t want to purchase a separate device or get a new lawnmower, the next best option is to mow your lawn twice. Each time you’ll mow in an opposing direction, which cuts up the grass clippings into fine pieces that aren’t visible in your yard.
When the grass clippings are this small, it’s also easier for them to decompose, and their nutrients return to the soil faster. You can also adjust your mower’s height each time you mow, starting with a higher setting and then changing to a lower setting, so the clippings are smaller.
If you are cutting your lawn often enough, it’s less likely you’ll have an overabundance of clippings that could cause thatch build-up.
5. Mow Around the Perimeter
For more extensive lawns, the most efficient way to minimize the appearance of grass clippings is to mow your yard around the perimeter instead of in rows as you normally would.
When you mow your lawn around the perimeter, you blow the grass clippings to the center where you then go over them again and again with each pass. At the end of mowing, you’ll have one or two channels of grass clippings to clean up instead of several rows.
Related: Top Ways to Pick Up Pine Needles
8 Things to Do With Grass Clippings
If you’re bored of raking and bagging or if you’re looking for creative ways to use up your grass clippings, our list of suggestions offers some surprising alternatives that you can try right away.
Use it as Mulch
Grass clippings make excellent mulch in raised beds, traditional gardens, and around other plants in your yard. Using mulch as grass clippings hold moisture in the soil longer, and as the grass clippings break down, they offer your plants valuable nitrogen.
Keep grass clippings to one or two inches thick and don’t allow them to directly touch your plants’ base as this can encourage disease. If you don’t mind the smell of fermenting grass, you can add a thicker mulch layer, but it’s just as easy to keep adding grass clippings as you go.
Feed it to Animals
Many animals love to eat grass clippings, including:
- Poultry like chickens, geese, and ducks
Don’t feed grass clippings to your animals if the lawn was treated with pesticides or herbicides as these can cause health problems for your animals.
Some animals will prefer dried grass clippings, which you can accomplish by leaving the clippings in the sun. Others prefer that they’re fresh, so you’ll want to offer them before the clippings begin to ferment.
Add it to a Worm Bin
If you don’t already have a worm bin, it’s an easy DIY project that can supply you with worm castings that make for ideal plant food. Worms love grass clippings, and by adding a few handfuls to your worm bin, you can keep the worms happy, and add organic matter that will break down to create a fluffy type of soil for your worms to crawl around in.
Be careful not to add too much grass as worms work slowly, and the grass will quickly begin to smell as it breaks down. If you can let the grass clippings dry out a little, you can cut down on the smell and create more comfortable bedding for your worms.
Add it to Your Compost Pile
Adding grass clippings to your compost pile helps fuel the microbes that work to break down the organic matter. As long as you balance out the grass clippings with some type of brown component like leaves in a 1:1 ratio, and turn your compost every few days, you can ensure more even decomposition.
Make Grass Clipping Tea
Making tea with your grass clippings is a nitrogen-rich solution that will keep your plants happy and requires only a bucket, grass clippings, and some water.
When you mix these components and cover the bucket to keep out mosquitos, the grass clippings break down over about two weeks until they become a fertilizer tea.
This process can get quite smelly, but you’ll only need a pint of tea mixed with 1-2 gallons of water for most applications. Apply it to your plants every 2-4 weeks for the best results.
Feed Nearby Deer
Deer love to eat many of the plants in our garden that we wish they would stay away from, but grass clippings are food they enjoy that you can use as a distraction.
Place grass clippings near the edge of your property where the deer are likely to appear, and they might not venture further into your yard in search of more food.
Make Rabbit Food
Spread out your grass clippings, so they dry out, and you can use them to feed rabbits. Make sure to turn the clippings at least once a day until they are dehydrated and store them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to serve them to your furry friend.
Make Green Dye
Grass clippings make for excellent green dye, but it requires a lot of very fresh grass clippings for the best effect. You’ll need to use a mordant as with other natural dyes to ensure colorfastness, but it’s possible to get a variety of lovely green hues on most fabrics.
Grass Clipping FAQ
Read our list of frequently asked questions to find answers to common questions about grass clippings and how you should handle them in your yard.
Should You Pick Up Grass Clippings?
If your lawn is healthy, leaving some grass clippings is beneficial for returning nutrients to the soil, saves you time and money, and helps build the soil layer.
Airflow to your lawn is essential to prevent disease, so if your yard is wet when you cut it, or if there is a thick layer of clippings, you’ll want to pick them up. A thick layer of clippings will mat down on itself and suffocate the grass below, which can cause unsightly dead spots.
Is It Ok to Have Grass Clippings on the Lawn?
Leaving grass clippings on the lawn can cause issues with airflow that create ideal conditions for specific diseases in your yard, including:
- Powdery Mildew
- Brown Patch
- Pythium Blight
- Dollar Spot
These unhealthy conditions can cause many types of fungal diseases, which are more likely when grass clippings build up, stick together, or hold in moisture for more extended periods.
How Do You Clean Grass Clippings?
If your grass clippings get mixed with other yard debris, you can try manually picking out as much of the debris as possible, or shake the clippings through a coarse mesh sieve designed for landscaping.
This process can be quite labor-intensive if you have a large number of clippings, and it might not remove smaller particles, but it will save you time and provide much cleaner grass clippings compared to manual sorting.
How Long Does it Take for Grass Clippings to Decompose?
Grass clippings count as a “green” addition to your compost, and since they are mostly water, they break down quickly. When you balance them with other “brown” debris, you can expedite how quickly grass clippings become nutritious compost.
How long the decomposition process takes will depend primarily on your compost pile and the ratio of green and brown components that can influence the breakdown of other yard waste.
The best way to pick up grass clippings will depend on the size of your yard, the number of clippings, and the amount of time and labor you’re willing to contribute. Rakes, sweepers, and collection bags are the most popular options for homeowners.
Grass clippings don’t necessarily hurt your lawn, but they can make your yard more prone to disease if they get too thick.
If you want to make good use of grass clippings, there’s a wide variety of options that range from gardening applications to feeding livestock and crafting.
Related: Dethatching With a Mower Attachment