Mowing lawns without a catcher has many benefits, and a few drawbacks as well, but like all things - there is usually a balance to be found in moderation. And unlike other lawn types buffalo grass will require very special consideration when considering mowing without a catcher and letting the clippings fall back into the lawn.
The benefits of mowing without a catcher is that the clippings contain high amounts of Nitrogen, which is a major element in all lawn fertilisers, and a nutrient which lawns require more than any other. So when 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 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, and can become more prone to disease or pest infestation if the process is not done properly, and monitored.
However, these things are in consideration of most other lawn types, and buffalo grass needs greater consideration.
Major Problems Mowing Buffalo Grass Without A Catcher
Buffalo grass is well known for its thick top layer of stolons (above ground runners), which is an inherent trait to all buffalo grasses, including the new soft varieties. This thatch layer can grow quite quickly and quite high.
Now we can imagine if we mow a buffalo lawn without a catcher, then these same clippings are going to fall into this thick thatch layer which is unique only to buffalo 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 one of the worst things we could possibly do with a buffalo lawn.
And secondly is if our buffalo 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 is a major problem on many fronts for buffalo 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 buffalo lawn will suffer greatly. And secondly is that this thatch layer will dry out very quickly in the summer sun, leaving the buffalo 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 buffalo without a catcher is really not 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 Buffalo Grass Without A Catcher
Having said all these things, we can also say that sometimes we can indeed mow buffalo 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 buffalo grass without a catcher is when there is no danger of that thick buffalo thatch layer growing in the turf, and this can be under a few different circumstances.
If the buffalo 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 buffalo turf.
Also buffalo grass is much less prone to severe thatching when grown in the shade, and many buffalo lawns can go on for years and years growing in partial shade without ever growing this thick thatch layer. So if your buffalo 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… without fear.
New Buffalo Grass Lawns
We should also stress that these important factors relating to mowing buffalo grass without a catcher must also apply to new buffalo lawns as well. Especially those lawns being grown in full sun conditions.
New buffalo 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 buffalo 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 buffalo lawn without a catcher either, despite the fact that it may seem as though there is no risk of thatch developing. Instead, they 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.
While we've kept our examples of the best and worst of buffalo thatching and mowing without a catcher in simple terms, we believe we've covered the most important aspects for consideration, and so we can easily see why it is normally not a good idea to ever mow healthy buffalo grass without a catcher and without special consideration.
However, under certain circumstances when thatching is not an issue, mowing buffalo grass without a catcher can be beneficial to the lawn.