From foot traffic to running dogs, our lawns get a lot of wear and tear. If your lawn is looking tired and patchy, it could be due for an overseeding.
Overseeding is the process of spreading grass seed onto your existing lawn. This can be done using a seed spreader, or by hand if you have a smaller lawn. A question many homeowners ask about overseeding is: should I bag my grass clippings after overseeding, or is it better to mulch them?
Since grass clippings contain high levels of moisture and nutrients, it can be beneficial to use them as mulch to fertilize the lawn after overseeding. But if your lawn has a disease or creeping weeds, you should bag grass clippings instead, to prevent these issues from spreading.
Let’s look at some pros and cons of both mulching and bagging. This will help you make a more informed decision about your lawn come springtime!
Should I Mulch After Overseeding?
Overseeding can make a patchy lawn fuller, greener, and overall more healthy. The first step towards overseeding your lawn begins with mowing the grass. This creates grass clippings, which you can either rake to one side of the yard or bag up temporarily before overseeding.
Once you overseed the lawn, you can then mulch the lawn using those grass clippings. This involves spreading the clippings over the freshly laid seed. The grass clippings provide the lawn with nutrients like potassium and nitrogen. These are two of the most vital nutrients for plants and are found in most store-bought fertilizers.
Mulching your lawn will also help keep moisture in and prevent the grass seeds from drying out. This will increase the likelihood of seed germination.
Should I Bag My Grass Clippings If I Have Weeds?
If you decide not to use your grass clippings for mulch, the other option is to bag them. The term “bagging” means to either bag the clippings up for disposal or add them to a compost heap.
Mulching is usually recommended over bagging, because why put all that natural fertilizer to waste? But there are some cases where bagging is necessary, such as when you have weeds or a diseased lawn.
Grass with creeping weeds like clover, black medic, and creeping charlie should always be bagged because these weeds can re-root from the cuttings. Bagging is also recommended if your lawn has any type of existing fungus disease. Common diseases like Rhizoctonia brown patch and dollar spot can spread via lawn clippings. To be safe, always dispose of grass clippings from diseased lawns in a bag, rather than composting them.
Can You Mix Grass Clippings Into Soil?
Raking grass clippings into your lawn will make them decompose slower, since the lack of oxygen below ground prevents the organic material from breaking down. It can take grass clippings up to 12 months to decompose this way! This causes the clippings to act as a slow-releasing fertilizer.
This can be beneficial for the long-term health of your lawn, but mulching grass clippings instead of raking them in is generally more effective. Mulching allows the clippings to decompose faster and gives the soil a boost of fertilization to help grass grow in the spring.
Does Mulching Your Lawn Cause Thatch?
Thatch is a condition where a layer of living and dead organic material gets trapped at the base of grass shoots. Thatch build-up happens when those organic materials take too long to break down. A thin (½ inch) layer of thatch is actually beneficial for your lawn. It helps keep the soil moist and protects it from extreme temperature fluctuations.
But once that thatch layer gets too thick, it begins to block fertilizer and water from reaching the soil. Thatch can also trap water below its surface and suffocate grass roots. Pathogens that cause leaf spot and summer patch can also survive in thick layers of thatch and infect your lawn.
Despite all these worrying facts, mulching does not inherently cause thatch. If your lawn already has a thatch problem, mulching can make it worse. But since lawn clipping mulch is mostly made of water, it breaks down too quickly to actually cause a thatch problem.
When Should I Mow My Overseeded Lawn?
After you overseed your lawn, the seeds need time to acclimate to the soil conditions. Mowing puts stress on the grass and may disrupt the placement of the seeds. For these reasons, you should avoid mowing the grass for at least ten days after overseeding.
When you do eventually mow your lawn, set the mower to the highest height you can (3 inches minimum). Make sure the blades are sharp so they do not tear new seedlings from the ground.
Since newly overseeded lawns must be watered frequently, let the grass dry out before mowing it. Mowing wet grass can clog your mower and damage the motor. Wet grass also tends to get pulled up by the roots, which will negate all your hard lawn work by causing more damage.
Does Putting Grass Clippings on Bare Spots Help Grass Grow?
Thanks to the nutrients contained in grass clippings, they can help repair patchy lawns by acting as a natural fertilizer.
Whether it’s from summer drought, foot traffic, or disease, bald patches are a common lawn issue. If you have bare spots on your lawn, your first step should be to remove any excess debris, weeds, or dead grass. You can revitalize the soil with nutrients by raking compost into it. Then, you can sow the bare spot with grass seed.
Since you have bare ground to work with, you can rake the grass seeds right into the soil. The next step is to add a layer of mulch on top. Mulch prevents the bare patch from drying out in the sun, and protects the seeds to give them a better chance of germinating. You can buy bagged mulch from any garden store, or use homemade mulch in the form of manure, straw, or dry grass clippings.
How Many Times Should You Mulch Your Lawn?
Garden experts suggest mulching your lawn once a year. You can mulch twice a year for an added boost of nutrients – if you don’t mind the extra workload!
It’s best to mulch in the fall or the spring, so either the beginning or the tail end of the growing season. Spring is often considered to be the best time, because mulch can give grass a boost of fertilizer right when it’s starting to grow. This will make your lawn look more full and beautiful just in time for summer.
Mulching in the fall will help feed the soil nutrients throughout the winter. It will also keep the soil warm, allowing organisms like worms to live longer and encouraging the breakdown of organic material. Just keep in mind that once spring comes around, you’ll have to remove old mulch and replace it with fresh grass clippings.
What Is The Best Grass Seed for Overseeding?
Standing in the lawn care aisle, you may feel a little overwhelmed with all the grass seed options that are available. To save you time, here are some of the most popular options for overseeding.
Tall Fescue Blend
Tall fescue blends use a variety of Southern grasses that are accustomed to harsh drought conditions. These blends also have excellent resistance to insects and diseases.
This type of grass seed is perfect for lawns in areas that experience extreme summer heat. You can overseed your lawn with this type of seed in the fall or spring.
Annual ryegrass has a yellowish-green color and makes an excellent inexpensive option for overseeding. Be warned that you’ll have to overseed your lawn every year since this type of grass doesn’t hold up well in the winter.
But ryegrass does hold up well to erosion, making it a great choice for lawns with lots of traffic.
Perennial ryegrass seed is more expensive than annual ryegrass, but comes with many more benefits. Besides the fact that it will return each year if conditions are suitable, this type of seed can germinate in only three to five days, which makes it great for repairing lawns through overseeding.
Perennial ryegrass is also soft to the touch and has a fine texture that is great for backyards where children play.
The importance of a healthy lawn is often overlooked, but lush green grass no doubt adds to the beauty of your home. If your grass is looking patchy or thin, you can bring it back to life by overseeding.
One of the most important steps when overseeding is fertilization. And, one of the best ways to fertilize your lawn is to use grass clippings as mulch. The clippings contain moisture and nutrients like nitrogen and potassium which will encourage the new grass seed to germinate.
But if your grass has signs of diseases like brown patch, or is infested with creeping weeds like clover, you should bag grass clippings instead. This will prevent these issues from spreading to healthy areas of your lawn.