When it comes to using grass clippings to produce new grass, it’s all a matter of timing. There are a ton of things that you can do with grass clippings, and, for the most part, people usually leave them lying in piles throughout their yard. However, if you time it right, there’s a different use for grass clippings.
Under normal circumstances, grass clippings are just grass clippings, usually removed or left to lie where they fall. However, if you allow the grass to grow tall enough to produce seeds and then cut it, you can effectively seed your entire lawn through a recycling process.
Grass has to grow long enough to produce the seeds you need from the eventual grass clippings. If you cut it too soon, the grass clippings will be useless for you.
On the other hand, you may have to wait until your lawn is looking a little shabby before you cut.
How Long Do You Have to Wait to Mow Your Lawn?
That’s largely dependent on the type of grass that dominates your lawn. Kentucky Bluegrass is a popular option, as well as ryegrass. However, you also have bermudagrass and turf grass. Unfortunately, none of these grasses have the same timeframe before they start to produce seeds.
So we can only give you a general timeframe and tell you what to look for.
It will take anywhere between a month and two months before your grass will start producing seedlings that have the potential to germinate and grow new grass.
You will know when your grass is ready because the seedlings are typically located on the tips of the grass. You will be able to see this when it finally comes along. If you have a rigid routine when cutting your grass, waiting for more than a month may be a little disconcerting.
One thing that waiting that long will help you do is determine if any weeds are hiding among your clean grass. Weeds will grow much faster in general, and you will have ample time to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.
Types of Grass and Germination for Each
There are several types of grasses that those who appreciate a little lawn care prefer to target. If your yard is nothing but crabgrass, you can either redo your lawn yourself, which will take a lot of time and patience, or hire a professional company to come in and do it for you.
If your neighbor has some good grass and they wait long enough to mow their lawn, it’s a good idea to hit them up for their grass clippings, aerate your lawn, and spread the love around with plenty of water and care.
But first, you need some decent grass.
This is a popular grass amongst lawn enthusiasts, and it’s nowhere near as invasive as Kentucky Bluegrass. However, when it comes to mowing tall fescue, the chances for the grass clippings successfully taking root are slim and none.
That’s because tall fescue is a non-spreading turfgrass species. That means it doesn’t produce seed heads such as runners and stolons, which the grass clipping requires to take on a life of its own.
That’s not to say that none of the grass clippings from Tall Fescue will take root, just that it will not be blanket coverage—not by a large margin.
This warm-season grass can withstand heat, drought, and heavy foot travel. It’s much heartier and can withstand a little more abuse than most other grasses. Zoysia grass doesn’t require much care, but it spreads quickly.
It is a slow grower, but once it starts spreading, it will take over your lawn if you’re not careful.
When it comes to using Kentucky Bluegrass clippings to essentially seed or reseed your lawn, you’ll have a lot more luck with this than you will with Tall Fescue. Kentucky Bluegrass is highly invasive and has a high germination and survival rate.
Of course, you still have to wait to mow the lawn, but Kentucky Bluegrass won’t make you wait for a full two months before you can safely cut and reuse the grass clippings.
Kentucky Bluegrass also has a large zone in which it can grow—zones 3 through 7, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
It also happens to be the most widely sold of all grasses, probably because of its extreme tenacity and ability to spread and thrive. It doesn’t grow very fast, but it is one of the most resilient grasses available. I
t also has a much higher growth potential than tall fescue when you are dealing with grass clippings.
Bermudagrass has a smaller window than Kentucky Bluegrass (zones 7 through 10), and you will never get new grass to grow from clippings. The only way that Bermuda grass will grow from using the grass clippings is if you happen to pull up the stolon when you are mowing.
Not only do you have to pull up the stolon, but it also has to survive by landing in the right spot and having plenty of moisture to encourage it to grow and take root.
Ryegrass is usually included in lawn seed mixes, not in a bag on its own. This is because when it comes to clippings of ryegrass, the odds of it spreading are as high as Kentucky Bluegrass. Ryegrass germinates quickly and spreads rapidly, which is why it’s a favorite in lawn seed mixtures.
How to Get Grass Clippings to Grow
The only way to get grass clippings to grow is to give them a ton of water. If you have an automated sprinkler system, you may want to adjust the settings, so it dumps more water on the lawn than before.
The great thing is that the grass clippings that don’t produce new seeds will quickly decompose, returning nutrients to the soil. So the seeds that do take will have the added benefit of new, fresh clippings returning to the soil for nutrient enrichment.
This boils down to multiple cuttings that produce grass clippings at the stage in which they are producing seeds. So the more grass clippings you add to it, the more your chances are that some of them will take root.
That means you will have to allow for longer growth in your grass each time you go out to mow the lawn. Every time you mow the lawn and spread out your grass clippings, you must go through a heavy watering cycle.
You should also strongly consider purchasing a mulching mower, which will effectively spread the grass clippings for you, so you don’t have to return and rake them or blow them around yourself.
You can purchase a mulching mower or convert your own mower into a mulching mower. All the mulcher does is attach to where the blower is normally located.
When the grass comes through the blower, it goes into the mulcher instead and is broken down more than it usually would be from the mower blades.
While you can use grass clippings to seed your lawn, it’s often difficult to do, and if you don’t have the right grass type, it’s probably not worth all the extra effort.
You can always use your grass clippings as a source of nutrient enrichment instead, allowing for the growth of new grass seeds that you bring in separately.