Lawn care means different things to different people. For some, it is simply about trimming the grass to acceptable levels. For others, it means improving the overall look of their yard and crafting it to be exactly what they want.

One issue that comes up frequently is what to do with the grass clippings. There is some debate about the best way to handle them. Should you throw them out? Should you mulch them? The thing is that you can either mulch your grass clippings, bag them, or side discharge them. But understanding what the impact is for the look and overall health of your lawn will be important.

So, let’s take a deeper look at the three different methods of handling your grass clippings. This will help you come to a determination about how to best handle them and how they will affect the overall look of the lawn itself.

The Benefits of Bagging

If you’ve got long grass, bagging is a great method to utilize. This is also the case if you have particularly large weeds to deal with, too. Bagging means that you don’t have any grass clippings or weeds to worry about.

When cut grass dries, it can stand out in stark contrast to the rest of the lawn. Sometimes, it looks okay. Other times, it just looks like a bunch of dead grass sitting over your freshly cut lawn. It can be frustrating to look at.

Bagging it means that you can also remove any sticks, weeds, leaves, or other materials. Heck, in most cases you can just run these things over with your mower and let them fly into the bag. So, if you’re looking for an easy solution for removing any debris or things that you just don’t want on the lawn, the bag is probably the best way to go.

The best part about the bag is that it is easy. Most mowers now come with a bag either on the side or on the rear of the mower itself. So as you mow, the grass clippings fly up and into the bag, meaning you get the cleanest possible cut.

If you’re composting (more on that later), you can also take that full bag and empty it into your compost pile for later use. The bag makes things quite easy on the whole.

The Downside of Bagging

The only downside to using a bagger is that you have to empty the bag. If you’re lucky, your municipality will give you a bin of some sort for disposing of grass clippings and other things from your yard. All you have to do then is empty the bagger into the container.

But in most cases, you’re going to have to transfer the grass clippings from your mower’s bagger into some kind of garbage bag. Doing this on your own is mostly fine but it does leave the possibility that you could spill grass clippings and that can be infinitely frustrating.

Still, if you are just looking to get rid of those grass clippings when you’re done, bagging is a surefire method for doing so. You can then appreciate the work you have done on your yard without having to stare down dead grass clippings all over the place.

The Benefits of Side Discharge

This is how things were for so long before modern lawn mowers. This goes all the way back to even before there were motorized lawn mowers. You simply cut the grass and let the clippings fall where they may.

Side discharge isn’t that popular anymore, though. This is because of the aforementioned grass clippings problem. More and more homeowners are looking for precise aesthetics from their lawn and grass clippings strewn about simply does not promote that.

Professionals, however, will use the side cut method unless specifically requested otherwise from a residential job. This is because they get more power and a better overall quality of cut. Not only that, they don’t have to worry about grass clipping disposal or a buildup around the blades.

The reason that you get a better overall quality of cut is because the blades are going to be lifted high and you get better speed. This means that the blades are blasting out those grass clippings while cutting, keeping the blades moving freely.

That bagger may be helpful for your little plot of land, but you’re not going to get as much power due to the vacuuming of the grass clippings. That is why you see people with large plots of land use a riding mower instead of a traditional push mower with a bagger.

Even for homeowners, you can get more power and an easier overall cut. The side discharge means there is no dealing with a full bag (which can fill up quickly after a rain) or having to dispose of those clippings.

Most of all, you can get a non-stop mow. No having to take breaks to empty the bagger. That means that you can just get through your mowing and move on to other portions of your day.

The Downside of Side Discharge

There’s no other way to put it: side discharge is messy. There is the obvious issue of the clippings shooting all over the place when you are done. Dead, cut grass can have a distinct look to it that stands out from your freshly cut, green grass.

This can provide an aesthetic that you may not be happy with. Not only that, clippings can spray onto your driveway, sidewalks, pathways, and any other concrete areas that you would like to keep clean.

There is also the potential for a mess all over you. When your mower side discharges, it kicks all that grass out. When you walk through it, it can cling to your shoes and pants, even turning them green as a result. If you use a side discharge mower, make sure that you wear clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.

The Benefits of Mulching

Mulching is becoming a great way to reuse grass clippings for the greater benefit of your yard. You can actually reuse the grass clippings for the benefit of your lawn. When they are given the chance to break down and decompose, they will actually feed your lawn.

When you can give your lawn a little bit of an extra kick in terms of feeding and nutrients, you can get a much lusher, greener looking lawn. You can even use grass clippings as a fertilizer if you compost.

Grass clippings can have much more use than you may have realized. Best of all, you get reuse out of those clippings instead of having to wonder about how you may dispose of them. That can be a victory on its own.

The Downsides of Mulching

To mulch effectively, you will need special blades to do the job. That means that you can’t necessarily mulch with any old mower. Or, at least, you could mulch but it may be much more difficult to do so with a mower that isn’t equipped to do so.

Mulching also requires the proper conditions to achieve. If the grass is too long, you will have a problem because the mower will have to work overtime to grind that grass down into smaller, more manageable pieces. When the grass clippings are ground down too much, you aren’t going to get the same level of nutrients out of it.

Also keep in mind the condition of your grass can play a role, too. If your grass has a lot of dead spots and is just in generally bad condition, mulching isn’t really an option to start. You have to worry about seeding and getting the grass back into a healthy condition before you can start mulching.

Mulching also takes a lot of effort to do. You have to not only bag up the dead grass clippings, you need to spread them throughout your yard. This can be much more of a hassle than simply disposing of your grass clippings to begin with.

Of course, there are modern mowers that actually have a mulching mode to them. If you can swing the cost of that new mower and are hell-bent on mulching, this is the best option to go with. But most of us don’t have those mowers, so other methods need to be explored.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, it depends on the level of care that you are putting into your lawn. If you are simply looking for a quick cut, the side discharge method is likely the way to go. It won’t look as neat and clean as bagging, but it will take substantially less effort.

If you’re looking to really give your lawn a new life and get more vibrance out of your grass, mulching may be the way to go. It takes a lot more effort than even bagging, but it can really pay dividends in the overall appearance of your lawn.

Author

I have a bachelor's degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies...I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house.

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