To bag or not to bag? Some valuable information
Bagging in most cases is not a worthwhile endeavor, not only does it add time to your lawn maintenance routine but it is unnecessary in most cases. Here are the primary benefits attributed to returning the clippings to your lawn, bonus points if you have a mulching mower!
Lawn clippings contain valuable nutrients and moisture
Clippings will encourage earthworms that aerate your lawn naturally
Clippings help keep in moisture and keep out UV rays
The microbes that break down plant residue excrete byproducts that solubilize essential plant nutrients in your soil
There is always an exception to the rule, if you have a lawn disease, it is prudent you bag your clippings to avoid spreading infectious spores or bacteria to healthy areas of the lawn.
You may have dethatched your lawn recently at the recommendation of a lawn care professional, a colleague, or a neighbor and maybe thinking that returning the clippings to your lawn will result in annual dethatching. But the real problem isn't the clippings, the grass clippings are actually a symptom of over-fertilization, lack of biodiversity, and poor drainage caused by synthetic fertilizer. Switch to organic fertilization to alleviate your battle with lawn thatch.
Is nutrient recycling worth it?
There are no perfect solutions and in order to break down grass clippings, your soil will need to supply a little additional nitrogen. As you may know, nitrogen is the primary ingredient in turf fertilizer and often the rate-limiting nutrient to growth. So when you plan to recycle clippings as a part of your lawn maintenance routine, be aware of the need for supplemental nitrogen fertilization for optimal turf growth.
Potential benefits that need more research
"Decomposing" microbes can outcompete or even deactivate pathogenic microbes
Insects like chinch bugs may find it easier to source their moisture from fresh grass clippings rather than healthy live turfgrass
When healthy plants like grass decompose, they release inhibitory chemicals that may suppress weed seed germination
If you choose to bag your clippings just be aware of all the potential benefits that you are missing, recycling your clippings may be your ticket to the next level of lawn health. Most brands of lawn equipment offer a mulching lawnmower, these are easily the best strategy for clipping recycling. Remember that synthetic fertilizer can lead to problems in the lawn so consider switching to organic fertilization and forget about dethatching!