Nearly every lawnmower has the option to mulch, discharge and collect grass clippings into a rear bag. For homeowners, the benefits of these mowing techniques isn’t always clear. The best option for the health of your lawn and curb appeal is reducing grass clippings into a fine mulch. There are conditions when discharging or bagging is preferred.

Mulching

Key Benefit: Finely mulched grass clippings return key nutrients back to the soil surface feeding your lawn.

Negative: Requires homeowners to mow more often and reduce ground speed.

I prefer to mulch my lawn whenever possible. It is the most effective and inexpensive method to maintaining healthy grass plants. Clippings reduce the temperature of soil and prevents evaporation. These are important benefits immediately after grass is cut. To reduce grass clippings into a fine mulch, you must mow regularly with a sharp blade and consistent speed. If grass is too tall clumps form both on the lawn and under your mowing deck. Clumps of grass damage your lawn and strain your lawnmower. If grass is too tall or wet, homeowners risk breaking belts or straining engines. If you rush grass clippings will be too large to breakdown onto the soil. This leads to soil compaction and thatch. Both of these issues are frustrating and required extensive effort to mitigate. So if saving time is a key factor in your lawn care mulching is not the best option.

Side Discharge

Key Benefit: Discharging grass saves time and puts less strain on equipment including wear on blades, belts, spindles, engines and other expensive components.

Negative: Less curb appeal and excessive clumps can damage health of your lawn.

Analysis: Whether discharging from the side of the mower or from the rear, the benefit of side discharge is speed. Quickly cutting and disposing of grass clippings puts less strain on the mower and allows for faster ground speed. When time is a factor, side discharge is the preferred option. That is why our residential zero turn riding mowers all come standard configured with side discharge. It is also the reason professional contractors mowing commercial properties, common areas and even residential properties typically discharge grass.

If grass is extremely wet or tall then discharging clippings may prevent damage to your lawnmower. Excess clumps of grass will damage healthy grass.The clumps of grass left on your lawn should be raked and composted. Discharged clippings may also spread into mulch beds, landscaping and hardscapes. Beyond the reduced curb appeal, open discharge chutes raise the potential for damage if you strike unseen debris in your lawn. Always be aware of the direction of your discharge chute to prevent harmful accidents.

Bagging

Key Benefit: Prevents grass clippings from damaging your turf and leaves a clean, crisp look on your lawn.

Negative: Requires the most time and removes nutrients from your lawn.

Bagging grass is a great option when grass is tall, leaves are falling or you want a gorgeous appearance. One of the primary reasons homeowners bag in to reduce yard waste tailed into your home by pets and family members. My dog’s paws are regularly leaving grass clippings, leaves and other fallen debris on my hardwood floors. Especially in the fall or after a large storm, I will use the bag in my backyard where he plays. Grass is elevated and nearly all debris is pulled off the lawn into the grass bag collector. Grass looks lovely and I use the collected clippings in my compost. The big negative is constantly stopping to dump the collected clippings. Removing the grass clippings also deprives the lawn of moisture and nutrients. Bagging sparingly is the prevailing theory in our experience.

Summary

Every method has a benefit or it would not exist. Mulching is the best method when you stay on schedule and weather permits. Discharging grass clippings is fast and prevents damage to your equipment in difficult conditions. Bagging helps clean up after a storm, during the fall or just to beautify your lawn.

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