Bagging vs. Mulching Grass Clippings

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grass clippings in two trash bags, with a lawn mower and attachment in the background

The grass is getting high and it’s time to get out the lawn mower. But do you bag the leftover grass clippings or leave them be on the lawn? Deciding what to do with your grass clippings is based primarily on your environment and your personal preferences — read on to learn more about the pros and cons of each.

The pros of bagging your grass clippings

Less mess

After you put in all that effort to mow the lawn, you don’t want to look back and see a mess of grass clippings laying across your freshly cut grass. Bagging your grass clippings prevents your yard from looking messy. It gives your lawn a professional appearance and increases the curb appeal of your home. By using a mower with a bagging attachment, keeping the yard clear of grass clippings becomes a breeze. 

Leaving grass clippings on your lawn also can lead to clumps of grass being dragged inside your house by the kids and pets, so you’ll be avoiding some indoor cleanup as well. 

Reduces allergies

If you’re sensitive to grass pollen, you already know how irritating it can be to spend time outdoors with friends and family. You can reduce allergy irritation by bagging your grass clippings. Mulching the grass clippings returns the grass pollen to the yard and stirs it up even more. Use a mower with a built-in bagging attachment to avoid contact altogether.

Depending on where you live, grass pollen levels tend to be highest between May and August, so avoid mulching during these months if grass allergies affect you. Using a lawnmower with a mulching blade has been proven to reduce levels of allergenic spores in the yard.

Pro tip: mow at night when pollen counts tend to be lower.

Prevents pests

More grass, more problems. If your grass is on the taller side (clippings longer than 1 inch), you should probably bag it. Long grass clippings will not only provide shelter to pests but they will smother your grass, leading to fungal growth and diseases. 

Prevents diseases from spreading

If your lawn is already riddled with fungus and other diseases, it would be best to bag your grass to prevent the diseases from being spread. Removing grass clippings also will make it easier to identify diseased areas of the lawn.

Collect for composting

Even if you don’t want to mulch your lawn clippings, you can still collect them in bags to reuse in other ways. Bagging your clippings can make it easier to transport them to your compost pile, to a drying rack, or to a neighbor’s house (if they’re interested in using them, of course). There are many other ways to use your grass clippings, including starting a garden, making tea for your plants, and feeding the wildlife in your backyard.

The cons of bagging your grass clippings

Increases yard work

The primary downside to the bagging method is that it increases the time you spend on yard work. Not only will you have to mow the lawn, but you’ll have to rake and bag the grass clippings afterward. Even if you have a mower with a bagging attachment, you’ll likely need to spend time transporting the clippings somewhere, since half of the 50 states have regulations for disposing of grass clippings. 

If you’re using the bagged clippings to include in your compost, that’s still more time and energy you’d need to use compared to simply leaving them on the ground.

Disposing of the bagged clippings

On top of the extra yard work, you’ll have to figure out where to dispose of the grass clippings. Whether you’re bringing them to a friend or neighbor who can make use of them, a garden center, or you’re getting rid of them at a local disposal site, you’ll be spending time, energy, and gas money to transport them around town. 

The pros of mulching your grass clippings

Low effort

Leaving the grass clippings to mulch on your yard, also known as “grasscycling,” can reduce the amount of time you spend mowing. Mulching grass clippings has proven to reduce yard work time by 30%-38%. You’ll be saving time that you might otherwise have spent raking, bagging, and transporting the clippings. 

One big myth is that leaving your grass clippings will increase levels of thatch buildup in your yard. Grass clippings are mostly water and will decompose quickly. Thatch is a layer of organic matter that builds up faster than it can decompose, so grass clippings do not significantly contribute to thatch levels. 

Environmentally friendly

Yard trimmings make up a big portion of your total municipal solid waste — averaging at about 12% nationwide. This means more than 35.4 million tons of yard trimmings, such as grass, leaves, and other plant-related materials, are filling up our landfills each year. You can help bring this number down by mulching your grass clippings or repurposing them in other ways such as composting or using them to start a lasagna garden. 

Saves money

Mulching is a great option because it cuts down on equipment and service costs. If you cut your own grass, all you need is the mower. If you hire a lawn care expert, opting to mulch the grass cuts down on their time, and therefore cuts down costs on your bill. 

On the other hand, with bagging you’ll need equipment such as a rake, leaf vacuum, bagging attachment, and replacement bags. You’ll probably have to pay a lawn care company more money for the extra service. You also might have to pay for a special trash service, depending on your local grass clipping disposal regulations.

While you don’t necessarily need equipment apart from your mower to mulch grass clippings, buying a mulching mower can help break down the grass faster. 

Provides free fertilizer

Grass clippings quickly decompose and return essential nutrients, such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, back to the soil. Use grass clippings to fertilize your lawn or to make compost to help fertilize your plants. Leaving your grass clippings on the ground can fulfill up to 25% of your lawn’s fertilizer needs. Grass clippings are a free, natural fertilizer that can help preserve your healthy lawn throughout the year.

Hydrates your lawn

When you water your lawn, the grass clippings will help hold onto some of the moisture and keep your lawn nice and hydrated. Instead of quickly evaporating, the water will be retained by the grass clippings and later be absorbed by the living grass. 

Reduces weeds

Mulching grass clippings can help deter weed growth by hydrating and providing nutrients to existing plants, while (slightly) smothering any weeds that might try to fight through your healthy grass. 

Helps prevent soil erosion

Using grass clippings as a mulch on sloped areas of your yard or in your garden will prevent the soil from eroding during rainstorms. This will help retain your soil’s nutrients and keep your shallow-rooted plants in place.

The cons of mulching your grass clippings

Not for wet lawns

If you mow soon after a rainstorm, the wet clippings will form clumps of grass. These grass clumps can harness pests and moisture, and block patches of your lawn from getting necessary levels of sunlight and nutrients. If you have to mow soon after it rains, it would be better to bag the grass clippings. 

It’s not a good idea to mow wet grass in general. Wet grass clippings can clog up your lawnmower, damage your mower blades, and tear up your landscaping. It’s best to wait for the lawn to dry and add the long grass clippings to the compost bin after you mow. 

Can spread diseases

If your lawn is experiencing issues with fungus and disease, mulching the infected clippings can cause a huge problem by spreading the fungus and disease to other areas of your yard. If you notice infected areas of your lawn, it would be best to bag your clippings until the area is treated and the fungus is gone. 

Decreases curb appeal

If you like your lawn to have a traditional, even-looking appearance, then mulching might not be for you. There’s no way to get around the fact that it’s not as appealing to have grass clippings lying around your yard. As a garden mulch, grass clippings are not as attractive as wood chips or shredded bark. 

Reduce, reuse, grasscycle

Mulching is a great option if you are looking to cut down on yard work and protect the environment.

There are many benefits of mulching, including increased lawn fertilization, less work for you, and a multitude of environmental benefits. Bagging grass clippings takes more time and money, but it may be the right option, depending on your circumstances. At the end of the day, bagging and mulching can both lead you to a healthy lawn

If you feel like your lawn is flooded with clippings, try mowing more frequently and alternating between mulching and bagging grass clippings. This will give you the benefits of mulching without creating piles of grass clippings to be tracked inside by pets and kids. 

Allergic to grass? Allergic to yard work? Let our Lawn Love pros trim the lawn for you, saving you from irritation later.

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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