Should I Bag or Mulch my Grass Clippings?

Category: Lawn Care

lawn mowerBag or mulch? Ah yes, to bag or not to bag your grass clippings…that is the question. As a professional lawn care company, this is one of our most common questions.

There are few times that we would actually recommend bagging your grass clippings. That may be a good idea if you’re having a specific turf disease problem that you’re hoping to not spread as you mow, when cleaning up leaves in the fall, or if you went way too long between mowings.

However, whenever you can, mulch your clippings. Here are some common questions we have heard about the topic and some clarification:

1)  Is bagging grass clippings bad for the environment?

Yes. Studies have shown that almost 20% of solid waste deposited in landfills is that from yard debris. Likewise, a study in a city with 80,000 people revealed that over 700 tons of grass clippings were collected and disposed of in their landfill each WEEK! Collecting your grass clippings and having them hauled off increases costs overall and takes up valuable space in landfills.

thatch2)  Will returning grass clippings to the lawn create more thatch?

No. Thatch is a naturally-occurring layer of both decomposed stems and roots that grows between the grass blades and the soil.

The clippings that are left behind decompose rapidly and do not contribute to thatch. If you have a problem with excessive (over 1/2″) thatch in your lawn, the best way to manage thatch is to take a soil test and correct soil pH and perform a lawn aeration with a core aerator each year.

3)  Will returning clippings to my lawn makes it greener?

Yes. Research has shown that over a 3-year period, clippings from lawns contained between 46%-59% of nitrogen that was applied to the lawn (fertilizer). Recycling your turf grass clippings significantly reduces the amount of fertilizer you’ll need since it keeps the nitrogen in the lawn.

When we design our lawn care programs, we do so based on people recycling their clippings back to their lawn. This means if you’re throwing away your clippings, you’re throwing away half of the fertilizer applied as well!

long grass4)  Are side-discharge, mulching, and bagging mowers all the same?

No. Both side-discharge and mulching mowers leave grass blades behind. However, a mulching blade chops up clippings into finer pieces so they decompose faster and don’t clump as quickly. Using a side-discharge mower you may need to do your own mulching by running over your grass piles multiple times.

When you mow frequently enough, mulching mowers chop up those clippings and don’t even allow them to be seen. If you’re using a bagging mower, you’re in for more work. You’ll have to carry, bad, and dump your debris while you mow.

5)  Can leaving excessive grass clippings on my lawn damage it?

Yes. If you don’t mow frequently enough, excessive clumps and thick matting of lawn clippings can discolor and even kill areas in your lawn. This may mean you need to mow more than once a week in peak growing times so you’re only removing 1/3 of the grass blade each time you mow.

Sure it takes more time when you have to mow every 4-5 days, but you’re going to have a much better looking and healthier lawn in the long run.

cut grass with scissors6)  Are grass clipping safe to use on my garden for compost?

No. Check with your lawn care company as to what was applied on your last lawn care service.

If herbicides or other materials like insecticides were applied, you won’t want to use these as compost on your garden. This compost is best for your lawn.

Now you can do your part with making your lawn look even better! If you need help with the rest of what it takes to make your lawn look its best, please Contact Us when considering your choices for lawn care companies.


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