So, this has been my first year with a yard that I need to tend myself, and I have dutifully mowed it every Saturday morning. The problem I'm finding is that, while I've always heard it's better to just let the cut grass decompose into the yard, it's not decomposing fast enough, I wind up with pretty little lines of dead grass that clog up and try to choke out the mower the following week.

I'm not interested in having the greenest lawn on the block, and will probably never fertilize the grass unless it just gets horribly brown, so I'm hesitant to bag up the grass and remove the nutrients from the yard, but it's getting tougher and tougher to mow as the season goes on and the rows of dead grass grow.

Does anyone have a suggestion on how to handle this conundrum?

  • There's a little rhyme about grass cutting - 'when the weather's dry, let the clippings fly'. Which means when its damp, you collect the cuttings and don't let them lie. Don't you guys use grass boxes over there, or is that impractical because you have large areas of grass?
    – Bamboo
    Sep 2, 2014 at 11:28
  • I've never heard of grass boxes, but at least with my yard I'd guess so. Mowing with my push mower takes about two hours when I'm not fighting with clipping clogs.
    – Sidney
    Sep 2, 2014 at 13:18
  • they're just removable collection containers usually on the back of a mower, sometimes on top for electric hover mowers. Even push mowers can have one on the back.
    – Bamboo
    Sep 2, 2014 at 15:50
  • 1
    Oh! Must be different regional phrases. Yes, I have one on my mower, and actually keep it on for an overflow when the side chute clogs up, but when using it without the side chute, It fills about once per pass of the lawn, and I have to make 35-40 passes.
    – Sidney
    Sep 2, 2014 at 16:04

4 Answers 4


What height are you cutting your lawn?

Are you cutting it when it is damp?

Has it been a mild summer in your neck of the woods?

If you're cutting it less than 3", it's too short. The amount that gets clipped off should be just a small fraction of the overall height.

If you're cutting it when it is damp (like in the morning), it'll be prone to clump up, particularly if it is being mowed with a side-discharge mower. I personally strive to avoid cutting the lawn until after the dew's dried off the grass.

If your mower can mulch - mine has a removable side-discharge piece and turns into a mulching mower - you should try using it. That'll cut the grass into smaller pieces, which will break down more quickly. Again, don't cut the grass when it's wet.

I've been cutting grass week after week since the spring because the weather here in VA has been considerably cooler than in past summers. Normally I'd have to mow very little in August (since the hot weather slows down the growth) but not this year. It can be a real challenge to keep it cut here on my farm. Maybe the weather has been similar where you live.

You could cut it and bag/rake all that off the lawn and start fresh - depending on your lawn size, that could be a workout. Then, set the mower to at least 3" in height and cut it only when the grass is dry (i.e., not first thing in the morning). I've you've got a lot of dead grass on the lawn, I'd probably do that. The goal is to only do this once and afterwards rely upon shorter clippings breaking down more quickly.


Mow higher. Grass grows much slower when mowed high, so the volume of clipping generated is drastically dropped, and what is produced will fall down through the grass better. Plus, the height of the grass mirrors the root system somewhat. The longer blades support deeper roots, and your lawn will not suffer as badly from drought. I usually don't mow lower than four inches.

It's better to go by the grass and weather than a strict weekly schedule. Some weeks the grass may grow faster, and require being mowed twice, while some other weeks, if it's really dry, it may not really grow. Also, don't mow on wet, rainy days. It's better to mow the day before, or wait until it dries off, or the next day. As itsmatt says, and personally strives to avoid, wet clippings are clumpy and clog mowers.

If you get a mulcher mower, it will cut the clippings into small pieces, which will not lie on the top of the grass as much. Another thing I've seen done is bagging a seasons clippings, composting them (carefully, they're high in nitrogen), and raking the compost back into the lawn. The soil was quite nice.

There are also microbial thatch decomposers you could try, which will really speed up the decomposition of thatch and lawn clippings in your lawn.


I just wanted to add that you can try to mow in a different pattern each week. So one week mow diagonally, the next horizontally. This way the dried grass from the prior week will be chopped up again.


It can be done. Make the first cut high and the second where you want it to be, and cut in a different pattern the second time. You will cut faster, believe it or not, and the clippings will disperse nicely and evenly. They will also disappear faster and do your lawn some good.

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