"To bag or not to bag" is a very common, age-old question we get from homeowners who are new to lawn care. Many people swear it improves the bioavailability of certain plant nutrients, like oxygen, water, and minerals in the soil. Others believe leaving grass clippings prevents dry grass because the breakdown of organic elements nurtures grass while shielding it from the sun.
The real answer is, there are benefits to both practices, and what you choose for your lawn should depend on a few different variables. We'll explain the benefits and disadvantages of bagging grass clippings, and help you decide which is best for your lawn.
The Argument For Bagging
The main argument for bagging grass clippings is usually that it allows fresh-cut grass to "breathe" and prevents smothering of the grass due to clumps of grass left behind. There are also aesthetic reasons, adding to the crisp appearance of a green, beautiful lawn. Accumulation of dead yard clippings can quickly cause brown spots, or tufts of dried grass that float around walkways and might get inside your house with a breeze or foot traffic.
Bagging attachments are very often components of newer-model lawnmowers, and if not, collecting grass and other yard debris to prevent dead, brown grass is as simple as raking. Dead leaves and other yard debris are also easy to remove with your bags of grass clippings.
If the grass is very overgrown, lawn clippings should be bagged and removed to protect a healthy lawn. If someone in your home has grass allergies, bagging can help minimize allergens drifting around the air in your home and outdoor spaces.
Finally, yard waste like grass blades and other organic matter offers valuable nutrients and high nitrogen content to your compost pile and will help recycle the nutrients from your grass clippings.
Nitrogen-rich and organic nutrients break down to create a natural fertilizer for your lawn and garden. If organic (chemical-free, carbon-based) compost material can be reused to plant produce and flower gardens in the spring. Decomposed grass clippings are a great addition of essential nutrients to compost, which can be used as an all-natural substitute for some nitrogen fertilizers.
The Other Side of the Grass-Clippings Argument
While we've heard some compelling arguments for bagging your grass clippings, there are just as many from the team "no bag.” Some of those arguments include that bagging and removing grass is more trouble than it's worth. This is because once you remove the grass, you now have a bag of grass to deal with.
Many homeowners have outdoor areas that are a little more "wild" than the rest, and because grass blades and grassroots are all-natural, organic material, you can scatter grass anywhere outside that's convenient. But if you don't, you'd have to invest in an affordable compost bin or create a backyard compost pile. If not bagging decreases landfill waste and prevents your clippings and other compostable material from ending up there, don't bag!
There's also the argument for decomposing grasses and the importance of their contact with soil microorganisms. When grass dies or is cut naturally somehow, it decomposes into the soil where it lands. There it is not only adding nitrogen and carbon to the soil naturally; it is acting as a mild and organic fertilizer made by nature. Some argue that proper soil health and nutrient balance can only come from a naturally decomposed lawn, which adds nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.
While composting your yard waste and grass clippings makes great fertilizer, leaving the grass clippings altogether might be the most complete source of nutrients you can give your lawn.
Grass clippings provide a really great source of nutrients for the soil in your yard or garden. Whether you decide to bag and compost or leave your grass clippings as a natural mulch for your lawn depends on your priorities. If you want to create a rich compost for your vegetable garden that minimizes your runny nose and itchy eyes, bag your grass after regular mowing and when the grass is longer than 3 inches tall.
If your lawn isn't overgrown, dry grasses don't incite a riot of allergies in your house, and you don't have a compost bin or other outdoor space to dump them, leave those blades of grass on the lawn. That way, your grasses and soil surface will reap the benefits of a thin, decomposing layer of grass clippings.
Whether you decide to reap the benefits of bagging or to allow dead grass to nurture your still growing grasses, it's important to keep grasses and dead leaves from blowing into the street.