Mulching Vs. Bagging Your Grass Clippings

Rated 4.5 Across 156+ Reviews


The debate between mulching and bagging grass clippings is really less of a debate and more of a discussion. Both methods have their pros and cons, and whichever you choose should depend purely on what you feel is the best choice for your property. To help make that choice a little more clear for you, we have put together this comparison between mulching and bagging grass clippings while mowing the lawn. Let’s look a little closer at which option may be right for you. 

Benefits Of Mulching Grass Clippings

The process of mulching your grass clippings back into your lawn is often referred to as “grasscycling,” and it is not hard to understand why. This process involves mowing your lawn with a special attachment to discharge grass clippings, or you can simply remove the mower bag and let clippings fall to your lawn as you mow. The clippings are recycled back into your lawn, reintroducing many vital nutrients that would otherwise be lost if the clippings were bagged. This recycling process provides a host of benefits to your grass.

  • Increased Nutrients: Mulching grass clippings facilitates the natural recycling of nutrients, such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, back into the soil. These nutrients act as a natural fertilizer, providing the same nourishment to your grass and soil as synthetic fertilizers. 
  • Moisture Retention: The layer of mulched grass clippings serves as a protective barrier, helping to retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation and minimizing water runoff. Grass clippings are made mostly of water and they replenish moisture in your lawn when they decompose. 
  • Weed Suppression: Mulching grass clippings can help suppress weed growth by shading the soil surface, inhibiting weed seed germination, and smothering existing weeds.

Tips For Mulch Mowing

  • Determine what length you want your grass to be. For most lawns, 3 inches is a healthy height.
  • Make sure never to remove more than the top 1/3 of grass length. This will allow your lawn to better repair itself and prevent clippings from suffocating your lawn.
  • Clean your lawn mower before every use. An unclean mower deck, wheels, or blades can promote fungal growth, which will spread across your lawn as you mow.
  • Keep mower blades sharp! A dull blade will result in unhealthy grass and mangled clippings that could attract lawn diseases, pests, weeds, and more issues.
  • Mow regularly and rotate directions. Alternating mowing patterns allow you to effectively cover more ground with the clippings, and a weekly schedule ensures continued health.
  • Leave the clippings behind you as you mow. Make sure the bag is removed so that the clippings can fall to the ground and be reabsorbed into your lawn.

Drawbacks Of Mulching Grass Clippings

Though there are many reasons to leave grass clippings on your lawn, there are some homeowners and lawn care lovers who would advise against the practice. If you are considering grasscycling for your lawn’s health, keep the following in mind to help you identify potential issues that may arise.  

  • Aesthetic Concerns: Initially, mulching grass clippings back into your lawn can make your grass appear unkempt and less attractive. However, this issue tends to be short-lived due to the clippings breaking down into the soil. 
  • Thatch Accumulation: While healthy, green grass clippings will not add to thatch accumulation in your lawn, clippings that are already dried and brittle when you remove them from your lawn may add to a thatch layer on the soil surface. 
  • Nitrogen Tie-Up: In some cases, mulching grass clippings excessively can lead to nitrogen tie-up, where the decomposition process temporarily immobilizes soil nitrogen, potentially depriving the grass of this essential nutrient. 

Benefits Of Bagging Grass Clippings

Lawn mowers come with a bag for a reason; many homeowners prefer the look of a neatly manicured lawn, and there are several health benefits that come with removing grass clippings when you mow. Though we do encourage our readers to consider the benefits of grasscycling, below are a few of the benefits your lawn may receive from removing clippings. 

  • Improved Aesthetics: Bagging grass clippings results in an immediate improvement in lawn aesthetics, as the removal of clippings eliminates any visual clutter and allows striping and patterns to be more visible.
  • Thatch Prevention: As mentioned above, certain situations can cause grass clippings to add to thatch accumulation. Keeping your clippings bagged while you mow may help mitigate any issues your lawn has with thatch. 
  • Weed Control: While grasscycling can help suffocate emerging weeds, bagging clippings can also help weed control efforts by reducing the spread of weed seeds and seedlings that may be luring in your lawn as you mow. 

Tips For Bagging Grass Clippings

  • Equip your lawn mower with a bagging attachment specifically designed for collecting grass clippings. 
  • Empty the bag regularly because a full bag can hinder mower performance and reduce airflow, leading to uneven cutting and potential clogging.
  • Mow at the proper height to help ensure that clippings are neither too long nor too short, making them easier to collect and dispose of effectively.
  • Once the bag is full, empty the grass clippings into a designated compost pile or green waste bin for disposal. 
  • While bagging can be an effective way to maintain a tidy lawn appearance, avoid bagging excessive clippings that may result from infrequent mowing or cutting more than one-third of the grass blade height at a time. 
  • Periodically inspect the mower's discharge chute for any obstructions or clogs that may impede the flow of grass clippings into the bagging attachment. 

Drawbacks Of Bagging Grass Clippings

Grasscycling is our preferred method because it helps prevent some of the common issues that homeowners run into when they choose to bag grass clippings. Your lawn loses a lot of valuable resources when you cut some of its length off, which is why reintroducing those clippings is so important for avoiding serious health issues for your turf. 

  • Nutrient Loss: This is the biggest reason grass clippings should not be bagged. Allowing clippings to decompose back into your lawn is the best form of natural fertilizer. Depriving your grass (and the soil) of the nutrients and moisture in clippings makes it much harder for your lawn to stay lush and green.
  • Increases Compaction: The continual removal of grass clippings by bagging can lead to soil compaction, limiting root penetration and hindering water and nutrient uptake by plants. If your lawn’s roots can not grow under the soil, grass growth above the soil will become stunted.
  • Disrupts Soil Structure: Bagging grass clippings disrupts the natural decomposition process, preventing the formation of humus and compromising soil structure and aeration. This can lead to infertile soil, increased erosion, and many other negative effects. 

Call Little John’s Lawns For More Tips On Grass Management

If you want to find out more about the benefits of either method discussed in this article, reach out to Little John’s in Arizona, or call a lawn care provider in your area. We recommend mulching grass clippings for optimal lawn care, but a service provider in your particular area may have a different recommendation based on climate, grass type, and other factors. We hope this information has helped you get one step closer to the lawn of your dreams!