When it comes to mowing the lawn, homeowners are often at odds with which grass clipping disposal method works best.
Side discharge, bagging, or mulching are the options, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
In this article, we make the case for mulching – why it’s good for your lawn, as well as some possible downsides in the interest of being fair.
Read on to discover the top six benefits of mulching grass.
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Lawn Mulching Benefits – Too Long, Didn’t Read
Although this is a relatively short article, I can appreciate we all lead busy lives and time is of the essence.
For anyone just wanting to get to the good stuff, the seven biggest advantages to mulching grass are:
Yard waste reduction, moisture retention, fertilizing, time saving, helping weed prevention, and promoting healthy soil.
Let’s explore these plus points in a bit more detail, below.
What is Lawn Mulching?
Not to be confused with the mulch material you use around your flower beds, lawn mulching is when the freshly cut grass clippings are left on the lawn.
You need a special lawnmower to do this, or have a mulching blade attached.
To mulch your clippings, you then simply close the side discharge chute and remove the bag – if applicable with your particular mower.
If you feel you need to fit the right blade, take a look at this article on the best lawnmower blades and keep an eye out for the dedicated mulching options.
Some lawnmowers will have a “mulch plug” to block bagging and side chutes, while others might have it built-in. There may or may not be a switch that you set to “mulch,” depending on your machine.
Then you simply make a pass over your lawn as you normally would.
The mulch blade and deck design uses air flow to lift the grass into the cutting area and keep it there, so it gets thoroughly diced into smaller pieces.
These pieces are then deposited on your lawn.
Some mowers have three-in-one capabilities where you can side discharge, bag, and mulch with ease. Check out this article on the best cheap lawnmowers for some examples.
And watch the video below for a better understanding and to see the process in action.
Mulching Grass – Why You Should Do It
Reducing Yard Waste
Perhaps the most obvious advantage is that you’re getting your machine to do the hard work for you.
By dicing up the lawn material, you’re significantly reducing the amount of yard waste – or at least chopping it up to a manageable size.
When bagging your clippings, you’ll be taking a full load to the compost heap or into black trash bags regularly. It needs to go somewhere, and landfill is often where it can end up.
Not so great for the environment.
Side discharge can make a mess – particularly if you’re mowing near pavements, walkways, and patios. Your neighbors won’t thank you for scattering the property line with your grass waste.
And if you have a large lawn, then these problems are amplified. I suggest you use one of these awesome zero-turn mowers if you do have a huge area to cover.
Mulching your grass clippings takes care of all of that for you. And in the fall, you can use the same technique to clear your lawn of leaves and debris – so it’s a win-win.
Scattering grass clippings back on your soil can have a positive effect for helping keep moisture locked into the soil.
This is essential when promoting overall lawn health, and particularly important for new grass and/or overseeding, which needs to be constantly kept moist in order to germinate.
When the summer heat hits, your lawn is going to be vulnerable and exposed. June through August is the most stressful time for grasses, and they need all the help they can get.
A top layer of mulched grass clippings will help keep it protected and moist when watering – or whenever you do get a drop of rain.
Read this article for some more information on how to protect your lawn from the summer sun.
A Natural Fertilizer
While some people think that leaving grass clippings on a lawn is unsightly (if it looks like a load of hay piles then you’re doing it wrong), it doesn’t take long until it breaks down.
And when the clippings start to decompose, they’re going to release the holy trinity of Nitrogen, Prosperous, and Potassium, which creates a lovely natural fertilizer for your existing grass and soil.
These vital nutrients (NPK for short – after their chemical symbols) will give your lawn a much-needed boost, and will help promote a thicker, greener, and healthier surface overall.
Follow that link for some more expert advice on how to achieve a luscious lawn, with our easy-to-follow guide.
Nobody likes weeds springing up in their lawns, but unless you’re willing to put in a bit of effort, they are nearly always unavoidable.
You could try using one of these pre-emergent herbicides. Most of them are 100% safe for use on existing lawns, and many also include lawn feed and fertilizer as a bonus.
However, mulching your grass clippings on your lawn can create a natural barrier that helps prevent weeds from taking hold.
While it might not be the most effective, permanent solution and a few rogue plants might still get through – it certainly doesn’t hurt to try and adds another string to your weed-prevention bow.
Microorganisms living in your lawn will love you for mulching your grass clippings. They live for the stuff.
Over time, they digest and break down this material, which they turn into waste.
This is called humus, which is the name given to the organic component of soil, and not to be confused with the delicious Greek/Turkish/Middle Eastern dip.
Formed by decomposing plant material and microorganism poop, this is black gold for your lawn and desirable plant life.
Feed the tiny creatures on your lawn (the good ones, anyway) and they will pay you back in kind with a healthy, balanced soil that you could grow Jack’s beanstalk in.
Saving Time, Effort, and Money
Mulching isn’t all just beneficial to the lawn – you can reap the rewards, too.
When you’re dicing up your grass clippings and leaving them where they lie, you will save so much time stopping and starting in order to empty the lawnmower bag and clean the bagging chute.
I kid you not, marching back and forth to my compost heap with a heavy bag of grass clippings isn’t fun – especially when I’m into the far-flung reaches of the front yard.
You’re not increasing your workload with mulching, and you can let the mower do the hard graft for you.
And as you’re getting a natural fertilizer for your lawn – you can choose to skip buying an expensive product – which keeps money in your pocket.
(Although this is still highly recommended if you’re trying to establish new grass – or you’re overseeding an existing lawn.)
A Word of Caution
If mulching your lawn is so good – why don’t we do it all the time?! Surely this is a game-changer, and we never need to do anything else with our grass clippings?!
Not so fast – there are a couple of downsides to grass mulching, and we should make you aware of them here if we’re practicing our due diligence.
However, nearly all the disadvantages are down to incorrect mulching in the first place.
Over mulching may add to an existing thatch problem – dried or dead grass and material that can choke out desirable grasses and new seeds.
Poor mulching practice can also lead to an unsightly lawn, with large clumps of grass that will take time to break down.
To prevent this, always make sure your lawnmower blade is super-sharp. Try one of these excellent blade sharpeners to get the job done.
(I highly recommend number eight, and I’ve used it to prepare all my edged tools for the season.)
Use a quality lawnmower, and if you have particularly challenging terrain, I’d recommend one of these awesome riding mowers to tackle it.
Don’t mulch clippings if your lawn is overrun with weeds – especially if they’ve gone to seed. Bagging is a better option at this time, and you might want to try ridding your lawn of weeds without chemicals.
Never try to mulch when the grass is wet or too high – you’re asking for trouble. You should never mow your lawn when it’s wet anyway, but if you absolutely must, read this article first.
And if you are stuck with a lot of thatch no matter what you do – I recommended using a dedicated dethatcher to help clear it. Follow that link for some good examples.
Mowing the lawn isn’t the most exciting garden maintenance practice, but it’s a necessary one.
And by dicing your clippings instead of bagging or scattering them to the side, both you and your lawn will feel the benefits of mulching grass.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments – especially if you have any mulching tips and advice you could share from your experience.