Welcome back to the Wonderful World of Weed Man! We are nearing the end of our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!’ series. We have journeyed through the instrumental practices of a healthy and beautiful lawn and have a few remaining stops. This week’s adventure stop will help answer the question of mulching or bagging the lawn clippings! Unbeknownst to the average homeowner there is a raging debate within the industry regarding this topic. OK!, perhaps it really isn’t raging, nor is there a real debate – I just wanted to create some drama to capture your interest! Let us move forward with a little less ‘creative license’ on our subject.
Mulch or Bag? While the question is not overly complicated, it definitely can be too simplified in reasoning what to choose. Before I was educated on the topic, I would choose based on how lazy I felt. Unfortunately, I was doing myself a disservice by thinking it was that simple.
Mulch – what is it? As it pertains to your lawn, simply stated, it consists of grass clippings from the mowed lawn. The cut blades can be sliced into fine pieces that fall easily onto the top surface of the soil. Soil microorganism will help break the mulch down and reintroduce nutrients back into the soil.
Don’t grass clippings cause thatch buildup? No – It’s a common misconception that thatch is just grass clippings that do not get broken down in the lawn. Thatch is actually a matting of stems and roots that form just below the surface of the lawn. For more info on thatch, our last blog article touches on the subject when we wrote about aeration.
Do I need a mulching mower? Not necessarily. A mulching mower will help break the grass blade down into smaller pieces than a regular mower. Mulching mowers are specifically designed to limit grass clumps in the lawn. Nevertheless, a regular mower will do the trick as well, if you mow often enough, or are only cutting a small amount at a time.
So when should I mulch?
- When you want to provide extra nutrients back into the soil. Some experts will tell you that if you mulch all year, it is equivalent to an extra application of fertilizer on the lawn.
- Increase organic matter in your soil
- Save time and effort! When you mulch you don’t have to spend extra time collecting and disposing of clippings.
- If you prefer not to add to landfills with grass that can be easily broken down naturally in your own lawn.
When should I bag clippings?
- When you prefer the look of a ‘clean’ lawn. Typically mulching, when done properly, will not leave much of a visible footprint. Whatever is left behind breaks down fairly quickly though. Grass is 85% water, it won’t take much for it to dry up and disappear.
- Bag, when your lawn is overrun with weeds. You don’t want to run the risk of putting more weed seeds down into your lawn.
- Bag your lawn when the grass is wet or too long, as it won’t break down quickly and will leave piles of grass or clumps on the lawn. This will also make it difficult for existing grass to grow, breath, or get sunshine.
- Bag if you want to start a compost pile that can be used in other areas of your garden.
If you are like me, there are appropriate times to bag and appropriate times to mulch. I really like to bag my lawn during the seasons that I want to add mulch to my garden areas. Sometimes it’s just quicker to mulch the lawn if I need to get it done before an incoming rainstorm! Bagging during the fall is also a great way to cleanup leaves in your lawn with minimal effort. I also like to bag my lawn clippings, when my lovely wife tells me to!
Really whether you bag or mulch, the choice is up to you. Doing one practice over the other will not cause death and destruction to your lawn. If you have a preference and it is working for you, great! Now you may have further reason to stick with it, or consider changing your particular practice. Either way, in the immortal words of G.I.JOE, ‘now you know, and knowing is half the battle.’