How to deal with the inevitable grass clippings that are produced from the process of cutting your lawn is a conundrum that we all have to deal with. When I cut my first lawn many years ago for my father, I did it with a sense of dread because I knew it meant having to rake up the clippings left behind as well. Our lawnmower was one of the most basic varieties and it didn’t have a lot of options – it simply cut the lawn and left a pile of clippings in its wake. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it sure felt like it for a 12 year old.
These days most lawnmowers are a lot more sophisticated, and while raking the clippings up after you’re done cutting the lawn is still an option it’s not the only option any more. Most mowers have something called a 3-in-1 option which gives you the choice of mulching your clippings, bagging your clippings, or using your machine’s side discharge chute. In this article we take a look at the pros and cons of each option.
The Traditional Discharge Method
The first option we discussed in the opening of this article was the idea of discharging your clippings out of the machine immediately after they are cut – usually from the side. While many people may think this is the worst possible option there are some benefits to it. When you’re cutting your lawn in the early to late fall, choosing the side discharge option and leaving the grass clippings on your lawn can actually help to protect it as winter approaches as it leaves an extra layer of fertilizer behind for the coming spring.
However, if you’re cutting your lawn in the middle of summer, leaving your grass clippings behind when you use the side discharge option is a bad idea – especially if you live in a hotter climate that tends to brown your grass. Those left-behind clippings can actually turn your grass brown quicker and may even potentially make your lawn susceptible to fire. If you choose to use the side discharge option during the hotter months it’s best to collect them with a rake and bag them afterwards, although this is really unnecessary if your mower comes with a bag included.
Bagging Your Clippings
If your lawnmower does come with a clipping collector bag included and you’re cutting your lawn in those warm summer months, it’s a good idea to collect the clippings. For one thing, it will save you a lot of extra labor as the bag collects the clippings for you, eliminating the need to follow up your lawnmower with a rake. Yes, you may have to change the bag frequently, but that’s a lot less effort than having to rake clippings and collect them in a garbage bag. The main drawback of using the bag that comes with your mower is that when it comes time to detach the bag and dispose of the clippings, it can be quite heavy. If you have difficulty lifting heavy items due to physical limitations you may want to look at other options, such as mulching. If you do decide to use the bag it’s best to make sure you only fill it about half way so that it still remains relatively light – you will have to make more frequent trips to the compost pile, but you will save your back from some unnecessary wear and tear.
Choosing Mulch If You Want to Fertilize
Choosing to mulch your lawn has a lot of potential benefits. If you’re not sure what the mulching process does, it essentially grinds up your clippings into much finer pieces that can then fall easier between the blades of grass that are still on your lawn and into the soil underneath. They can then be broken down by the organisms that live in your soil and add to the nutrients that help your grass to grow – the clippings essentially become a form of fertilizer.
The great thing about using the mulch option on your mower is that you don’t have to worry about bagging your clippings at all and you don’t have to worry about raking them up afterwards either. There really isn’t anything left behind and it’s a lot less work for you. The problem with mulching is that you can actually over-fertilize your lawn and cause other problems, so it’s not something you can do all the time. It’s best to use this option when you’re cutting your lawn for the first few times in the spring to help it grow, but you shouldn’t overdo it.
You should also avoid mulching if there are a lot of weeds in your lawn, as you can actually end up fertilizing the weeds. It’s also best to avoid using the mulch option on a wet lawn as there is a good chance that the mulch won’t be broken down properly and you may end up doing more harm than good. If you stick to the plan of mulching in the early spring you should get a lot of benefit from this option.
It Depends on the Time of Year
Normally when you have three different options to choose from it’s obvious which one’s best, but in the case of choosing how to dispose of the grass clippings that your mower produces, that’s not the case at all. As we’ve outlined above, all three different ways of disposing of your lawn clippings have their advantages at different times of the year. Mulching is best in the early spring, bagging your clippings is almost certainly the way to go during the hot summer months, and using the side discharge option and leaving your clippings on the lawn may be a good idea in the early to late fall. If you can find a lawnmower that has a 3-in-1 clipping disposal function that’s in your price range you should definitely purchase one, as it can be extremely beneficial to the health of your lawn.