Should I Bag My Grass Clippings or Leave Them on The Lawn? The Answer is Easy.

hi!When residential lawn mowers first came about, they were designed to cleanly cut your lawn into grass clippings that, left on the turf, returned the naturally occurring nutrients back into your lawn.

Then self-bagging lawn mowers were invented, and people were told to bag their grass clippings.


close up mowShould you bag your grass clippings or leave them on the lawn?

In most cases, the answer is easy: Leave the grass clippings on the lawn.

Leave the grass clippings to save yourself time and energy. Clippings return valuable nutrients to the lawn in the form of mulch and result in a more luxurious and healthy turf. Done correctly, mulching nourishes your lawn with beneficial nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium nutrients.

mow trailerWhat about the messy grass clumps?

When mulching, if you find that your mower is leaving behind large clumps of grass, turn off your mower and adjust your blade height. Grass clippings should be one inch or less in height.  If you experience a trail of grass clumps, attach your bag and proceed mowing. You can always distribute your clippings with a lawn rake once you have finished mowing.

propane mowWhat about harmful thatch build-up?

Penn State University’s Center for Turfgrass Science, defines “thatch” as a loose, intermingled organic layer of dead and living shoots, stems, and roots that develops between the zone of green vegetation and the soil surface.

Thatch builds up when turf produces organic debris faster than it can break it down.

Harmful thatch build up results from using pesticides, overusing synthetic fertilizers and improper maintenance—mowing too low or too infrequently.

Use organic fertilization, mow high and regularly, with a sharp blade, and your grass clippings won’t contribute to thatch build up because soil microorganisms easily break them down.

Maintain your lawn regularly and properly, and thatch does not build up.

Front of wheelbarrow with grass clippings

Is bagging ever OK?

There are some circumstances when collecting your grass clippings is warranted:

  1. If you see signs of lawn disease, pick up the grass clippings to avoid spreading the fungus.
  2. If you want to use you grass clippings for garden mulch, bag or rake the clippings into a compost pile. As additions to a compost pile, lawn clippings are excellent because of their relatively high nitrogen content.
  3. If your mower is clumping (because you are trying to cut too much at once, or because your blade is not sharp enough), it is best to bag the grass clippings.

Which leads us to:

step 1Keep Your Blades Sharp!

The key to mulching is a good lawn mower. Ensure that your blades are sharp to help your mower cut each blade of grass into finer, more lightweight blades of grass. Don’t take too much off the top at one time. Cut the blades into small pieces so that they decompose easily (grass clippings are 85% water).  A rule of thumb is to take off the top 1/3 of the grass blade when you cut it.

Learn more about proper turf maintenance here: Sustainable Lawn Mowing

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4 Responses to Should I Bag My Grass Clippings or Leave Them on The Lawn? The Answer is Easy.

  1. jacob March 8, 2017 at 12:43 am #

    Now that it’s almost summer, it seems that I should know a few things that will help me take better care of my lawn mower. I try to replace the engine oil on a regular basis, so checking the spark plug is something that I should start doing. I’ve noticed that my lawn mower has been losing power since last summer, so I’ll take your advice and replace my old spark plugs to improve the way it runs.

  2. Marcus Coons June 11, 2019 at 3:49 pm #

    I loved when you mentioned how you can use grass clippings as mulch. It is important to understand that doing some research can help you find the best way to care for your lawn and make sure you have no pests around. We are going out of town for a month and want to make sure we keep our lawn looking great and avoid any pests with our grass.

  3. Elisabeth Southgate August 1, 2019 at 10:11 am #

    I found it interesting when you said to leave grass clippings on the lawn. I didn’t know that they return nutrients back to the lawn. I just might have to mention this to my lawn care people.

  4. Ashley Johnson August 1, 2019 at 1:15 pm #

    I thought that it was interesting that you said that in some situations you shouldn’t leave the grass clippings on the lawn. I have been thinking about getting a professional to take care of my law since I am not as knowledgeable about thing such as when and when not to leave grass clippings on your lawn. I will be sure to more seriously consider hiring a professional now that I understand that they have the knowledge to make these important decisions.

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