Grass Clippings: When to Bag, When to Mulch, and Why

We get all types of questions from folks who are looking to get new lawn equipment. You can quickly tell those who have ‘been there and done that’, and those who are perhaps brand new, first time home owners. Either way, when they come into one of our stores and see the selection of products within a particular category, we know that there will be some questions that almost everyone asks.

Bag or Mulch?
Bag or Mulch?

When it comes to mowing the lawn, one of those questions is: what do I do with the grass clippings?

  • Should you collect them in a bag?
  • Rake them up afterwards?
  • Leave them on the lawn to become mulch?

Some people swear by bagging and others say mulching is gospel. In actuality there are reasons for both.

Sometimes clippings should be bagged and not left on the lawn after mowing. For example, if your grass has been allowed to grow unusually high, or if mowed when the lawn is wet, then it is best to bag the clippings or rake them up afterwards. The reason for this is an overabundance of clippings or wet clippings will bunch together and create thick clumps that can smother patches of healthy grass. If your lawn has mold, fungus, weeds, or diseased grass, then the clippings should also be bagged to prevent potential spread.

However, while many people prefer to always bag the grass clippings, and many mowers come equipped with the tools to bag clippings as you cut, this is not always the best practice to achieve a healthy lawn.

A well kept lawn can benefit greatly from the grass clippings being left on the lawn, instead of being bagged. This practice is often referred to as mulching. For the health of the lawn and the best success with mulching, only the top third of the grass should be clipped off when mowing. This top part of the blade is mostly water and is filled with essential nutrients, such as nitrogen and potassium. When these short clippings are allowed to remain on the grass after mowing, they fall back into the lawn and quickly decompose into the soil, releasing their moisture and acting as a natural fertilizer. Mulching the grass clippings can provide a sort of sun block for the roots of your lawn and can also help keep the lawn from drying out during the hottest summer months of July and August.

But what about thatch?

The belief is that clippings left on the lawn contribute to the growth of lawn thatch. This is untrue as lawn thatch is actually caused by grass stems and roots that become intertwined and create a layer of living thatch that can prevent water and nutrients from properly reaching the soil. Lawn thatch is usually caused by overwatering and over fertilizing and can actually be reduced by mulching, since mulching encourages the presence of earthworms and microorganisms that keep soil healthy and prevents the development of lawn thatch.

In short, there are benefits to both bagging and mulching. The best thing you can do is get on a regular schedule for maintaining your lawn. For more information on best practices when it comes to grass clippings, visit your local Howard Brothers store where our friendly and knowledgeable staff can help with any questions you may have.

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