Mowing lawns without a catcher has many benefits, and a few drawbacks as well, but like with all things there is usually a balance to be found in moderation. And unlike some other lawn types Saint Augustine grass will require special consideration when considering mowing without a catcher and letting the clippings fall back into the lawn.
The major benefit of mowing without a catcher is that the clippings contain high amounts of Nitrogen, which is a major element in all lawn fertilizers, and a nutrient which lawns require more than any other. So when lawn mowing without the catcher and leaving the clippings to fall back into the lawn, we are feeding the lawn in a small way with no extra effort or expense on our part.
Lawn clippings will also contain small amounts of moisture which can keep the top of the lawn soil moist, as well as the clippings providing a thin layer of protection between the soil and the open elements, thus reducing soil moisture evaporation.
The downsides of mowing a lawn without a catcher are that the lawn can build up thatch more quickly if it’s a fast growing lawn, and as such could become more prone to disease or pest infestation if the mulch mowing process is not done properly, and monitored.
However, these things are in consideration of most other lawn types, and Saint Augustine grass needs greater consideration.
Problems Mowing Saint Augustine Grass Without A Catcher
Saint Augustine grass is well known for its thick top layer of stolons (above ground runners), which is an inherent trait to all Saint Augustine grasses, including the new soft varieties. This thatch layer can grow quite quickly and quite high.
Now we can imagine if we mow a Saint Augustine lawn without a catcher, then these same grass clippings are going to fall into this thick thatch layer of Saint Augustine grass.
What's going to happen are two things:
Firstly we will be adding to the thickening growth of this thatch layer at greater speed, which is not something we want to encourage in a Saint Augustine lawn.
And secondly is if our Saint Augustine grass lawn has already developed that thick layer of thatch, then the new green lawn growth will be having a very difficult time sending its roots down into the soil, and many of those roots will remain in the old decaying thatch beneath it.
By putting more clippings into this thatch layer, the roots of the new green turf on top will root themselves very firmly inside this dense mat of nutrient rich thatch and stay there, without proceeding into the soil itself.
This can be a possible problem on many fronts for Saint Augustine grass, first is that the thatch, even with decaying lawn clippings, does not contain the nutrients necessary for good lawn health, so the health of the Saint Augustine lawn will suffer greatly. And secondly is that this thatch layer will dry out very quickly in the summer sun, leaving the Saint Augustine lawn starved of thirst and needing far more water applied to it to survive.
So we can see just from these couple of examples, that mowing Saint Augustine without a catcher is generally not always a good idea. Of course we could go on further with more examples, but what we've covered already is enough to get the point across effectively.
When Can We Mow Saint Augustine Grass Without A Catcher
Having said all these things, we can also say that sometimes we can indeed mow Saint Augustine grass without a catcher, and leave the clippings where they fall, and the turf will improve beneficially as a result.
The best time, and the only time to mow Saint Augustine grass without a catcher is when there is no danger of that thick St Augustine thatch layer growing in the turf, and this can be under a few different circumstances.
If the Saint Augustine lawn is not being kept in the best of health, and is rather thin on the ground, then mowing without a catcher will be fine. The clippings will return their Nitrogen and moisture and some organic matter back into the soil for the benefit of the Saint Augustine turf.
Also Saint Augustine grass is much less prone to severe thatching when grown in partial shade, and many St Augustine lawns can go on for years and years growing in partial shade without ever growing this thick thatch layer. So if our Saint Augustine lawn is growing in partial shade and is not showing signs of developing thick thatch, then by all means mow the lawn without the catcher sometimes or often, or perhaps at every lawn mowing, without fear, and while improving the lawn and soil health at the same time.
New Saint Augustine Grass Lawns
It should also be stressed that these important factors relating to mowing Saint Augustine grass without a catcher must also apply to new St Augustine lawns as well. Especially those lawns being grown in full sun conditions.
New Saint Augustine lawns can appear to not have too much of a thatch layer developing, and the homeowner must stay aware that this will usually only be a temporary situation, as all St Augustine lawns will slowly grow their thatch layers over time, especially if these new lawns are being kept in good health and being grown in full sun.
Therefore the homeowner needs to be careful not to mow their new Saint Augustine lawn without a catcher either, despite the fact that it may seem as though there is no risk of thatch developing. Instead, we should be mindful of the problems of thatch, knowing that it will eventually come to their lawns too, and not to make the problem worse any sooner than it need be by mowing without a catcher.
However, returning back to the partial shade conditions of some lawns, if our new Saint Augustine lawn is growing in partial shade conditions, then mowing without the catcher should be just fine in almost all circumstances.
While keeping these examples of the best and worst of Saint Augustine lawn thatching and lawn mowing without a catcher in simple terms, most of the more important aspects have been given for consideration, and so we can easily see why it is often not a good idea to mow some healthy St Augustine grass without a catcher and without special consideration.
However, under certain circumstances when thatching is not an issue, mowing Saint Augustine grass without a catcher can be wonderfully beneficial to the lawn. As always, it is the homeowner themselves who best know and understand their own lawn and soil conditions, to decide for themselves which is the best lawn mowing method to use when caring for their own lawns.