Mulching vs. Bagging: Which is the Best Option?

Kenneth Wilson

A lawn needs regular mowing for its routine maintenance. As such, the clippings will need to be brought somewhere. This leads to common questions we often hear from homeowners: "What do I do with the grass clippings?", "Do I leave them on the lawn to become mulch or collect them in a bag?"

Mulching the grass clippings uses a lawnmower with a unique mulching blade to cut your grass finely. While bagging is when you collect the cut grass and dispose of it properly.

Mulching leaves the leftover grass clippings in the yard, where they decompose and serve as an organic lawn fertilizer full of healthy nutrients. But if you decide to bag the grass clippings from the lawn– this will deprive the yard of free, organic fertilizer. Let's take a closer look at the difference between the two:

What is Mulching?

Many experts agree that mulching is the best method for your lawn. Leaving the clippings in the yard is a time-saving way to get rid of the mulch. Not to mention, it will also return valuable nutrients to your lawn. These grass clippings have beneficial nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium nutrients. You'll need fewer chemicals once the mulched grass clippings decompose.

A successful mulching process needs you to chop the grass into fine, little pieces. Studies suggest that the grass clippings can provide up to one-third of your lawn's annual feeding requirement. (Related: Guide To Mulch: What Is It And How To Use It?)

What are the Benefits of Mulching?

If you choose to mulch the grass clippings that are left behind by lawnmowers, here are some benefits to consider.

  • Create a natural fertilizer: Grass clippings are filled with various nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Your lawn will benefit from adequate nitrogen levels to promote healthy growth and lush green color. When you mulch, these essential nutrients are brought back into the soil. This cuts down the need to use artificial fertilizers. (Expert Tip: If you're given a chance to opt for organic alternatives instead of using toxic chemicals– you should grab the chance to do so) Contrary to popular belief, grass clippings do not automatically cause thatch. Many lawn mower blades in the market today have been optimized to leave very fine and small clippings. They decompose faster and are harder to see to the naked eye.
  • Less work on your end: Every homeowner knows how lawn care and maintenance can be a time-consuming chore. And since time is of the essence, you may want to save your time by mulching your lawn. You can save by choosing to mulch is time you can spend on other essential tasks.
  • Lawn hydration benefits: Keep in mind that grass is 80% water. So if you use the cuttings to keep your lawn fed, you will also be providing it with the water it needs for nourishment. Lawns need moisture to thrive. Not just for the grass but also the sake of the soil. Especially during dry periods– keeping your lawn properly hydrated will keep it moist. As such, it will have higher levels of survival.
  • Natural weed control: Aside from providing your lawn with rich nutrients, grass clippings also help in the sense that they help control the weeds on your property. Remember that this will only take effect if you're following proper lawn care methods. And, if you mow regularly. The last thing you want is for the thatch layer to be too thick.
  • Environment friendly: Yes, the statement might sound like a reach. But mulching the grass clippings contributes to the environment by decreasing landfill use. Simply leaving your cut grass trimmings on the lawn allows you to cut back on the waste that ultimately ends up in the landfills.
  • More money in your pocket: Choosing to mulch while mowing your lawn allows you to save some money you will typically spend on buying quality fertilizers. And if you hire a local lawn care company for your mowing needs, you may need to pay additional charges for unloading leftover debris.

What is Bagging?

On the contrary, several homeowners still prefer to bag the clippings after mowing as it leaves a tidier appearance and better curb appeal. This is mainly because there are no visible clumps of grass left on the lawn afterward. It might be best to consider bagging if you:

  • Mow less frequently
  • Deal with long grass clippings

Keep in mind that large grass clumps left on the lawn may rot eventually, which also kills the live, healthy grass underneath it.

When To Bag Your Grass Clippings

Although we have already established the many benefits of mulching the grass, sometimes it's not the ideal method to follow if you want to achieve a healthy lawn. In some cases, the grass clippings must be bagged instead of left on the property after mowing.

Suppose the grass has grown unusually high, or if you mowed when the lawn is wet, you might want to bag the clippings or rake them up. Leaving excessive clippings (damp or dry) will clump together and smother patches of healthy turfgrass. If the lawn is dealing with mold, fungus, dead grass, or weed problems– you need to bag the grass clippings to avoid spreading the problem.

What are the Benefits of Bagging?

Before you ignore the option of bagging the grass clippings away, here are some benefits to consider as you choose this method.

  • Improved look: You put your lawn on display as it should be seen when you opt to bag what the lawnmower has taken off. In essence, bagging your clippings will improve the curb appeal of your property. If you let your grass grow a little too long, mowing it will undoubtedly leave clumps of clippings all over the place. This makes the appearance of your property unappealing, especially as the clippings dry out and turn brown. Always be ready to restore your yard to its former glory if your mower left a clumpy mess.
  • A natural fertilizer: In a yard waste container or compost bin, combine clippings with dead leaves and newspaper to create nutrient-rich material for plants in your garden and home. Attach the bag to your mower before you start mowing to gather some necessary nutrients from the ground. You'll have a steady supply of organic waste to compost and feed your vegetation as long as you use proper lawn care practices.
  • Fungus protection: Clippings can contain a significant amount of moisture, significantly longer ones. Fungi and other diseases can use moisture as their breeding grounds. You can prevent fungi and diseases from spreading when you bag them.
  • Skip the rake: Opting to bag your yard debris in the fall season will save you some trouble, especially if trees surround your house. Your property will be covered with leaves during the fall. Strap the bag to your mower and clean up the leaves instead of grabbing a rake. It is less work-intensive and will save you a lot of time.

Mulching or Bagging: Which is Better for Your Lawn?

It's up to you to decide whether to mulch or bag the grass clippings left after mowing. Now that you have a clearer idea of the many benefits of each method, you can better determine which one suits your situation and needs better.

Homeowners will benefit more from mulching the clippings if they want a natural fertilizer for their lawn. Meanwhile, those who mow less and have long grass clippings may be better off bagging the clippings instead. Both techniques can be beneficial to the overall health of your lawn and keep the grass healthy and flourishing, so it depends on your unique circumstances. Most homeowners will likely choose to mulch the trimmings, while others will get by simple bagging.

Kenneth Wilson
May 30, 2022
2terra, Yard & Garden

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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