Mulching vs. Bagging Grass Clippings: What’s Better for Your Lawn?

Mowing the lawn can already be a time-consuming process.  But after you finish the job, you must decide whether or not to mulch or bag your fresh grass clippings.  This debate is an ongoing conversation among lawn care enthusiasts.

What are the benefits of mulching instead of bagging, and why should you choose one over the other?  In reality, the benefits of mulching for the health of your lawn are pretty substantial.  But some people detest the sight of loose grass clippings strewn across their lawn.  Ultimately, whether or not you decide to mulch or bag your grass clippings is based on a number of personal preferences and tendencies.

mulching vs bagging grass clippings

The Benefits of Mulching

Mulching your grass clippings simply means leaving the recently cut blades on your lawn so that they can slowly decompose into the soil over the next few days.

Mulching is Fertilizing Your Lawn

Objectively, mulching your grass clippings leads to more tangible benefits for the health of your lawn.  Grass clippings contain high amounts of nitrogen as well as phosphorus and potassium – all the essential elements included in a bag of chemical fertilizer.

When you leave grass clippings on your lawn, they act as a natural fertilizer that decomposes those important nutrients into the soil.  In fact, some people say that if you mulch your grass clippings, you can account for one third of your annual nutrient requirements for your lawn care program.

Basically, mulching your grass clippings offers an organic fertilizer with the same results as a store-bought product.

Bagging Grass Clippings

Many people opt to bag their grass clippings because they do not like the appearance of the loose blades strewn across their grass, and they can be a nuisance for foot traffic.  The blades can stick to the bottom of your shoes and trail into your house.

However, you should think twice about bagging your grass clippings, because there are a number of tradeoffs.  For one thing, it takes a much longer time to continually empty your mower bag of clippings and put them in a yard waste container, especially if you have a large lawn.  Additionally, the yard waste containers are detrimental to the environment, considering that they contribute to unnecessary waste in landfills.

Composting Grass

For that reason, if you do not like the look of grass clippings on your lawn and choose to bag them, the best option is to use the clippings for a compost pile that you can eventually redistribute in your lawn or flowerbed.  However, collecting and distributing a compost pile takes much longer to show results than simply mulching your grass clippings.

How to Mulch Grass

If you decide to mulch your grass clippings, you need to make sure you do so correctly in order to reap the full reward.

Don’t Cut Too Much Off

You should mow your lawn often enough that you only cut a third of the grass blade length each time you mow. Not mowing frequently enough is detrimental to your lawn and stunts proper grass growth. Even if it looks like your grass hasn’t grown that much, still mow it anyways to be safe and mulch it.

If you mow your lawn very infrequently, your grass clippings will be too long and thick.  A too-thick pile of grass clippings will basically suffocate the layer of grass underneath and can cause brown patches or kill your lawn entirely.

Mow When Your Grass is Dry

You should not mow your lawn when the grass is wet, this avoids clumping of grass that will cause patches of your lawn to suffocate and die under the clumps. The best time to mow is late morning as well as late afternoon. Check out our article on the best time to mow your lawn for more information.

Mulch with a Sharp Mower Blade

Also make sure that you’re mowing with a sharp mower blade. If your blade is dull, you’ll notice that the tips of your grass blades will turn brown since you’re tearing grass vs. mowing it. Grass that has a clean cut with a sharp blade encourages growth and a healthy, green lawn.

When Bagging Grass Clippings Makes Sense

Here are some situations where bagging your grass clippings is better than mulching.

If You Don’t Mow Frequently

If you don’t mow your lawn at least once a week (as you should for a healthy lawn), you may want to stick with bagging your grass clippings if you know you do not have time to mow your lawn frequently. This way, you don’t choke out your own lawn with long grass clippings that create thatch which is a layer of dead grass covering the soil.

If Your Lawn Has A Disease

You should also always bag your grass clippings if you see signs of a lawn disease in your yard or there are any other elements in the clippings which you do not want to spread to the rest of the lawn. Random brown patches and grass dying in some areas is a telltale sign of a lawn disease. Don’t spread it around by mulching in this case.

Bottom Line: Mulching is Better for Your Lawn

Mulching your grass clippings offers a major nutrient boost to your lawn that will save money on other products like lawn fertilizer throughout the year.  Mulching is also far better for the environment than using yard waste containers to dispose of the loose clippings in a landfill.

Even though leaving the clippings strewn across your lawn may not look as neat, if you cut the grass at an appropriate length and use a rake to even over any clumps, the clippings will not be as noticeable.  For most lawn care enthusiasts, the benefits of mulching far outweigh the costs.

You should consider your personal habits and preferences, and decide whether or not curb appeal is more important than the health benefits of mulch for your lawn.