I always pride myself on maintaining a well-kept lawn, but to do so I need to always have the right equipment and a reliable maintenance schedule. Even with the best equipment and a rigorous schedule, however, I still have to find a home for the grass clippings that my mower leaves behind. When it comes to mowing, you can bag the clippings and disperse them elsewhere, or you can mulch them. Mulching grass vs bagging grass can be a tough decision, as both methods have their own benefits and drawbacks. I have lots of experience with both, and I can help guide you on which option should work best for you.
Mulching vs Bagging: How to Decide (The Short Answer)
When you decide between lawn mulching vs bagging there are several factors to consider. Lawn mulching is a better option if you have a high-performance mower, live in a warmer, humid climate, and mow your lawn frequently. If you let your grass grow longer, live in a cooler climate, and have a lesser-powered mower, then bagging is the better option.
What’s the Difference Between Bagging and Mulching
Before you decide whether lawn mulching vs bagging is right for your clippings, let me explain and break down exactly what each method entails.
Mulching is the method of cutting your grass whereby your mower traps the clippings inside the mower, and breaks them down with a sharp blade, as they pass through the cutting cycle multiple times. Instead of collecting the cut clippings, the mower re-disperses the small cuttings onto your lawn. The smaller clippings break down in the coming days and serve as beneficial nutrients, or “mulch” for the growing grass.
Bagging is the method of lawn mowing that involves the lawn mower feeding all the cut clippings into a bag that is connected to the mower. As you continue to mow the lawn, all the clippings and other debris are pushed up into the bag compartment, which eventually fills it up. Once the bag is full or you finish mowing the lawn, you then empty the bag in a compost area or in a garden waste container. So the key difference vs is mulching is that the clippings are removed from your lawn.
Mulching Grass vs Bagging – Which is Better?
When choosing which one is right for you, it all depends on what kind of mowing you plan to do and how often you plan to do it. In order to understand which method best suits your specific mowing needs best, let me explain the drawbacks and benefits of mulching vs bagging.
Pros of Mulching
If you have a large area to mow, mulching mowers can possibly save you time in the long run compared to bagging. With larger jobs, a bagging mower will fill with clippings over time, which means you will have to stop and empty the bag and replace it multiple times. When you mulch your clippings you never have to stop or pause in the middle of the job. This can save time and help you keep momentum when you mow.
Feeds Your Grass
Perhaps the best benefit to mulching rather than bagging is the beneficial nutrients the grass clippings provide to your growing lawn. The clippings provide much-needed nitrogen, and help your grass grow naturally. And it’s not like you have to do anything extra to enjoy this benefit. You just mow your lawn as you normally would.
Saves You Money on Fertilizer
As we just mentioned, mulching mowers provides lots of nutrients your lawn needs. This means you may not have to spend nearly as much money each year on fertilizer and other lawn enhancers in order to have a healthy lawn. Saving is never a bad thing!
Less Manual Labor
Mowing the lawn can often be plenty of hard work without having to lift heavy bags of clippings or push a heavy mower. Mulching mowers are lighter, and you never have to lift or carry heavy bags of clippings to a compost pile.
Cons of Mulching
One noticeable disadvantage to mulching your clippings is that your lawn can look messy. You may notice after mowing with a mulching mower there are lots of clippings along the sidewalk, and you may notice dead grass change color if it was not broken down well.
If you have a fungus issue in your lawn, mulching will likely spread the fungus to a larger area. If you notice a fungal problem you should probably bag your clippings until the issue is resolved. It’s also a good idea to bag your clippings if you have lots of lawn weeds, as mulching can spread weed spores all over your yard.
You Have To Mow Slower
In order to reap the maximum benefits of a mulching mower, you should move slowly across your lawn. A mulching mower aims to cut each blade of grass multiple times in order to break it down into very small pieces for decomposition. If you try to rush this job, then the grass may not break down as it was intended, and you’ll be left with big clumps of clippings on your lawn.
Not Great with Wet or Tall Grass
Mulching tall grass or wet grass can be like mixing oil and water. The grass can get stuck under the deck of the mower, and make it much more difficult to produce the desired result, i.e. super fine clippings. If you live in a very wet area, or tend to cut longer grass, you may want to choose to bag your clippings instead.
Have To Mow More Frequently
Mulching mowers work best when they are not cutting much grass off the top. This means in order to have the best results you need to mow your lawn more frequently than if you had a bagging mower. If you have a larger lawn or a limited amount of free time, this may pose a problem.
Pros of Bagging
Perhaps the biggest pro to bagging your clippings is the clean look it provides. By collecting all the clippings you are left with a beautifully cut lawn. There’s no risk of the clippings being blown all over your hardscaped areas, which can really look a mess.
One major pro to bagging your clippings is the clippings make for great composting. If you have a compost area, these clippings will be a great nitrogen-rich addition to the pile.
Picks Up Leaves and Other Small Debris
Bagging your clippings also makes it possible to remove other unwanted debris from the lawn. While you should never mow over sticks or anything unsafe, you can often “suck up” leaves, fungus and other weeds that grow on the grass, leaving you with a tidier lawn.
Cons of Bagging
If you have ever mowed a big lawn with a bagging mower you know it can require a bit of upper body strength. If you have a big lawn, bagging your clippings will require a lot of extra trips to the compost pile or waste container. This can take a toll on your back and shoulders.
Grass Piles Can Smell
If you have a designated place far away from your house for your clippings that is great, but otherwise grass piles can smell. The decomposing grass eventually breaks down and is unpleasant to be near at certain points of the decomposition process.
May Take Longer To Mow Overall
Bagging your clippings may result in your mowing sessions taking more time, especially if you have a huge lawn. The frequent need to empty the bag can add a significant amount of time to the mowing process, especially if wherever you’re depositing the clippings isn’t right next to the lawn.
When Mulching is a Good Option
Mulching is a great option if you have a manageable yard and don’t mind mowing a bit more frequently. I love mulching because it’s a great way to feed nutrients back into your lawn naturally, and you don’t need to dump all the clippings in a designated area.
Mulching is also a good option if you live in an area with warmer temperatures and higher humidity. This climate allows the clippings to break down more rapidly, so they do not sit on your grass for a long time.
When Bagging is a Good Option
Bagging your clippings is the best option for lawns that are mowed less frequently, or are located in cooler climates where the decomposition process is slower. Bagging your clippings is much better if you often let your lawn grow to several inches in height, as mulching mowers are not very effective at dealing with long grass.
If you are a person who loves to compost, then bagging your clippings will provide you with lots of material to add to your pile. You will also have a clean-looking lawn free of debris and clippings.