Should I Bag or Mulch my Grass Clippings?

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 mowing. However, whenever you can, mulch your clippings. Here are some statements you may have heard about the topic and some clarification:

1)  Bagging grass clippings is bad for the environment.

True. 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 by a trash company increases costs overall and takes up valuable space in landfills.

2)  Returning grass clippings to the lawn creates more thatch.

False. 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)  Returning clippings to your lawn makes it greener.

True. Research has shown that over a 3-year period, clippings from lawns contained between 46%-59% of nitrogen. When you recycle your turf grass clippings to your lawn it can not only significantly reduce the amount of fertilizer you’ll need in your lawn care program, but it will make your lawn greener as it supplies more of the needed nitrogen. When we design our lawn care programs, we do so based on the factor of 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!

4)  Side-discharge, mulching, and bagging mowers are the same.

False. Although both side-discharge and mulching mowers leave grass blades behind, a mulching blade will chop up clippings into finer pieces so that they can decompose faster and don’t clump as quickly. If you use a side-discharge mower, you may need to do your own grass mulching by running over your piles multiple times. If you mow frequently enough, mulching mowers can chop up those clippings and not even allow them to be seen. If you use a bagging mower, you’re in for more work as you’ll have to dump, carry, and bag your debris while you mow.

5)  Leaving too many grass clippings on my lawn can damage it.

True. 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.

6)  Grass clippings are always safe to use on my garden for compost.

False. 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 of lawn care companies.