Bagging When Mowing, Yes Or No?

Do you carefully collect all lawn clippings when mowing, or do you let the clippings fall on the lawn? Are you being lazy if you don’t meticulously bag up all clippings and haul to the compost site? Let’s examine.

So which is better for the lawn, to bag or not to bag?

  • Every research university that I’ve investigated for the past decade recommends not bagging, but instead allowing the clippings to filter naturally back into the lawn.
  • Have you ever watched pristine golf courses and baseball diamonds being mowed? Premium grass is their business, and if you notice, the clippings are not being bagged.
  • Collecting clippings didn’t become fashionable until the 1950’s when bagging attachments for lawn mowers were invented.
  • You can reduce the average mowing time by 30% if you don’t bag and haul to yard waste collection sites.
  • Clippings are 80 to 85% water, and decompose rapidly when allowed to filter into the lawn.
  • Most importantly, clippings benefit the lawn by conserving moisture, improving water penetration into the soil, smothering weeds, and increasing the organic content of the soil below, which mellows heavy clay soil and improves too-light sandy soil.
  • Clippings release nutrients back into the lawn as they decompose, adding the equivalent of one fertilizing per year. It’s natural and it’s free. 
  • Lawns should be mowed frequently during periods of active growth so clippings are one-inch or less in length.
  • The only time that bagging or raking is beneficial is if the clippings lay on the surface like a hay field. 
  • Clippings don’t contribute to thatch buildup on a healthy lawn. On a healthy lawn, clippings decompose instead of building into thatch. If thatch buildup is over one-half inch thick (the undecomposed tan woven layer between grass blades and soil), the thatch should be power-raked first, and then you can begin returning clippings to the lawn.

So we can all save ourselves time, money, vehicle gas, and have a healthy lawn, just by going back to the pre-1950’s mowing method of letting the clippings fall. Happy Gardening!

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