Mulching vs Bagging – Which Is Better?

Ever wonder which is better, mulching or bagging grass clippings? Read our recommendations!

During the summer months, the hum of the lawn mower is a regular sound of the season. Hardly a day goes by without hearing and seeing people working hard to keep their yards in pristine shape.

But what happens when the grass is cut? Is the work over? Do people sit back to enjoy the sweet smell of cut grass, or are they busy bagging what’s been left behind by the lawn mower?

Is the view of lush grass marred by bags of grass sitting by the curb, waiting to be brought to the landfill, or is it marred by brown grass clipping that shows every turn the lawn mower has taken?

As long as people have made use of a lawn mower, they have been confronted with what to do with the grass clippings their action produces.

To bag or to mulch—this question has been discussed by families, friends, and neighbors the world over.

So, ladies and gentlemen, we have come to settle this question for good.  This blow-by-blow contest pits mulching vs. bagging to settle the argument, once and for all, over what you should do with what your lawn mower leaves behind.

Both mulching and bagging come with their own set of unique benefits.

So which will it be? 

In one corner is mulching.  Mulching helps fertilize your yard in a natural way.

In the opposite corner is bagging.  Bagging keeps clumps of grass from forming on your yard to ensure it is pleasing to the eye.

Which is better?

Keep reading until the end to find out which one is better. First, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of both mulching and bagging the clippings you produce when mowing your lawn. 

Benefits of Mulching

Mulching the grass clippings that lawn mowers create comes with several benefits.  Some of these reasons are probably obvious to you, but some mind not immediately come to mind.

Create a Natural Fertilizer

Grass is full of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  Of these, nitrogen is especially noteworthy because it promotes rapid and healthy growth in plants, along with a lush green color.

When you mulch, you integrate these essential nutrients back into the soil.  Otherwise, they would be lost to your yard.

The reintroduction of these nutrients cuts back on the necessity of using man-made fertilizers.

Proper lawn care methods prevent the need to use toxic and hazardous chemicals.  Any time you can use something organic instead of something chemical, you should do so.

Contrary to what some people think, clippings do not automatically cause thatch. 

While clippings can add to an existing problem, today’s lawn mower blades have improved and will leave grass clippings that are very fine and very small.  This means they decompose faster and are harder to see in your yard.

Less Work for You

Lawn care and maintenance is a time-consuming activity.  In our fast-paced society, time is an incredibly valuable commodity.

You spend hours mowing and trimming the grass in your yard.  Do you really want to spend even more time mulching and fertilizing?

When you use the grass blades as mulch, you kill two birds with one stone.  The time that you are saving by mulching while mowing you can use for other important tasks.

Unexpected Hydration

Grass is 80% water.  When using cuttings to feed your lawn, you are also providing it with some of the water it needs.

All lawns need moisture to survive.  This is true not only for the grass, but also for the soil. 

During hot and dry periods, the water in the grass clippings will help keep your yard moist.  This line of defense can prove to be very important to the survival of your lawn. 

While the water in cut grass is not enough to quench your lawn’s thirst entirely, it can supplement it.  Any time the weather is particularly hot and dry, any moisture you can give your yard can be a lifesaver for the plants.

Not Just a Natural Fertilizer

Grass clippings do more than simply act as a nutrient-rich mulch.  They are also a natural form of weed control.

How can that possibly be true, you might wonder.

Well, as long as you are regularly mowing, the layer of cut blades on the surface will be less than 1 inch thick.  This is just thick enough to provide your yard with a natural barrier that stops weed seeds from falling to the ground and growing roots.   

Be aware that this will only be effective if you are using proper lawn care methods and mow regularly.  You don’t want this layer to get too thick.  If that happens, then your grass’ overall health can potentially be in jeopardy.

Help Save the World

That statement may seem a bit extreme, but mulching your grass clippings does play a small part in working for the greater good of the planet.

A benefit that many people don’t consider is that mulching decreases landfill use. 

Pollution is a very real issue, and landfills today are straining under all the waste they have to store. It is a fact that trimmings contribute to this strain.

By leaving cut grass on the lawn, you cut back on the waste that winds up in our landfills.

In a 2018 press release, experts at the Environmental Protection Agency stated that 10.8 million tons (tons, not pounds) of lawn clippings wind up in landfills every year.  That is an astounding number.

While your yard waste may not weigh a lot, by mulching, you are doing your part in helping the environment. 

Consider that nearly all cut grass that arrives at a landfill does so in plastic bags.  Some of these are not biodegradable and can harm wildlife.

So even if you do not have a compost pile, which most people do not, consider choosing mulching over bagging. It will do good not only to your yard, but also to the environment in general, as there will be fewer plastic bags headed to the landfill. And every little bit makes a difference.

More Money in Your Pocket

Lawns cost you two things: time and money.

If you mulch while mowing, you save some of the money you might otherwise spend on fertilizing.

If you have hired a professional lawn care company, you may incur additional charges for removing what the lawn mower has left from your property.  Even if you bag and haul it off yourself, you still have to pay to unload the debris at a landfill.

Add that to the cost of gas you use to drive to the landfill, the cost of the bags, and the hours you spend to get it all done.

In the end, all of these things can wind up costing you a pretty penny. This is money you don’t need to spend.

Benefits of Bagging

Don’t count bagging your grass clippings out of the fight just yet.  There are advantages to using this technique.

It’s All About the Look

When you choose to bag what the lawn mower has taken off, you put your lawn on display as it should be seen.  In essence, bagging your clippings will boost your property’s curb appeal.

If you’ve allowed your grass to grow a bit too long, then mowing your lawn will likely leave clumps of clippings strewn about.  This makes your property looks less than appealing, especially once the clippings dry out and turn brown.

So if your mower has left a clumpy mess all over, get ready to bag to restore your yard to all its glory.

Your Own Natural Fertilizer

Combining clippings with dead leaves and newspaper inside a yard waste container or compost bin will provide you with nutrient-rich material for plants in your garden and around your home.

So before you begin mowing, attach the bag to your mower and collect some essential nutrients right from the ground. 

As long as you practice proper lawn care methods, you will have a steady supply of organic matter to compost and feed your vegetation.

Fight the Fungus

Clippings, especially longer ones, can contain a significant amount of moisture.  This moisture can be a breeding ground for fungi and other diseases.

When you bag them, you prevent the diseases from spreading and the fungi from growing.

This is always a good thing for your lawn.

Skip the Rake

If your property is surrounded by trees, choosing to bag your yard debris in the fall will save you some toil and trouble.

In the fall, your property becomes covered with leaves.

Instead of heading out to the shed to grab a rake, just strap the bag onto your mower to clean up the leaves.  It’s less labor-intensive and won’t take you hours to finish.

And the Winner Is…

Now that we’ve looked at the pros and cons, in the battle of mulching vs. bagging, the ultimate winner is…

You.

At the end of the day, you’re the winner.  Because now you know each technique’s benefits and can choose which one suits you best when the time comes.  You have the option to mulch on one occasion and bag on another.

As you have read, both techniques can prove beneficial to your lawn’s overall health, depending on what your particular circumstances are.

While you will probably choose to mulch those trimmings in most instances, there are circumstances under which bagging will be the best course of action.

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge to keep your grass healthy and flourishing, get out there and enjoy it.

If you have any questions about which method to choose, come back and read this article.  Because, at the end of the day, all you want is for your lawn to look great.  Understanding these methods and when to use them will ensure that you make that happen.

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The Green Pinky

About the author: Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at TheGreenPinky. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.

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