Baggers and mulchers and clippings…Oh my!

Bagging vs Mulching vs Discharging


You’ve decided to buy a lawn mower. Mazel tov!

But already you’re seeing options you never considered. Walk behind or ride-on. Garden tractor or zero turn mower. Manual or electric start, engine size, deck size, push or self propel. Should I go with the Corinthian leather or just stick with the suede seat cover?

I know what you’re thinking….Maybe I should just get a goat. No tune-up and I can eat it in the winter. No argument here. Goats is good eatin.

But I know you’ve been saving up your pennies all year long and your heart is just set on something more than livestock.

You can be you. I don’t judge.

So let’s start simple and take a good look at one of the more significant decisions you’ll need to make: How do you want to handle the grass clippings?

Pros: Now, if you’re like most folks, you’d just as soon not have clumps of dead, brown grass strewn all across your lawn. There’s nothing wrong with that. Who doesn’t like a tidy place? Keeping all that dead thatch from collecting on the soil helps to improve irrigation. After all: a well saturated lawn is a happy lawn. Not all mowers offer the bagging function or bagging attachments; so if you’re looking to bag, confirm with the salesman that you’re getting a bagging mower with the bag.

Cons: More work. If you’re willing to continually empty the grass collector for the sake of a pretty lawn, knock yourself out. Vanity, they name is “bagger”. However, municipal regulations regarding the disposal of grass clippings varies from location to location. If you’re composting, then a bagging system is a pretty convenient way to get those clippings to the compost pile. But if you’re relying on the garbage man to haul them off, you may want to check into it first.

Pros: The ecologically sound way to go these days is to mulch. Mulching cuts the grass clippings so small that they sift down between the grass blades. Mulching will normally require a mulching kit or if your mower is already set up to mulch, the least you will need is a mulching blade. Keeping your clippings helps to reduce methane emissions in landfills and is generally better for the environment.

Cons: Out of sight-out of mind, right? No bagging, no hauling, no raking- well, actually there might be some raking involved down the line. The clippings, along with other debris such as twigs or leaves will eventually form a layer of mulch (or thatch) over your top soil. If left unchecked, it can choke your lawns root system. Mulching is less work in the summer, but will probably require a periodic touch up with a rake or a de-thatcher in the spring or fall.

Side Discharge
Pros: Simplicity at its finest. Just cut it and let it lay! It was good enough for Dad, it’s good enough for me! The mower simply blows the clippings across the lawn. Nesting animals will thank you for discharging your grass clippings, which can still be gathered up by hand for composting. No mulching kit or bagging system required; just mow and go. Side discharging tends to create a little more mess when cutting longer or thicker grass, but the simplicity of the function will reduce the time spent on the job. In rural areas, grazing animals will be happy to take care of the cleanup too.

Cons: With a dull blade or wet grass, you can leave clumps hither and thither, but probably not enough to force you and yours to pack up and leave in shame. Discharging clippings helps weeds to spread as well, so if you have a few…get rid of them first. Also, with longer grass, there will be a bit more mess, and of course if your cutting near structures or fences there is the unsightly green “chum” that inevitably covers every vertical surface. And don’t even get me started with sweeping the curb!

Thank goodness you purchased that awesome Echo Blower from Right?


So, there you have it. A little thinkin about them pesky grass clippings.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go change the oil in my goat.

-Bill does not sell or rent goats.  But that picture was just too damn cute to not include.

Did you enjoy this article?
Signup today and receive free updates straight in your inbox. We will never share or sell your email address.
I agree to have my personal information transfered to Mad Mimi ( more information )

Bill Brown

Bill is the head of content creation for the LawnMowerPros Blog and DIY section. He’s been in the Outdoor Power Equipment Industry for years and he’s still learning new things everyday. You can often find him creating featured articles, DIY guides, videos, graphics and much more.