While many people of think of grass catchers as convenient attachments for their walk-behind or riding lawn mowers, the catchers can also be problematic. A grass catcher is a bag or other container that attaches directly to a lawn mower and collects clippings, preventing the mower from spreading the clippings over your lawn. However, there are several negative aspects of grass catchers that can affect both mowing performance and lawn health.
When you mow a lawn with a grass catcher attached, you need to empty the catcher when it becomes full. Otherwise, the grass clippings will start to overflow and you could potentially damage the catcher or clog your lawn mower. The emptying process requires stopping, detaching the grass catcher, carrying the grass catcher to a receptacle or dumping zone, dumping out the clippings and finally bringing the catcher back to the mower and reattaching it. If your yard is particularly large, having to complete this process can be both labor intensive and time consuming. Of course, you could always push or drive the mower to the dumping zone, but then you would need to abandon the mowing path or pattern you were adhering to. Apart from the chore of emptying the catcher, a grass catcher can also cause convenience problems due to the weight it adds to a mower. If you do not have a self-propelled or riding mower, a grass catcher will make your lawn mower harder to push.
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While a lawn mower equipped with a grass catcher will undoubtedly produce a cleaner-looking lawn in comparison to a lawn mower without one, a mower and grass catcher combo may not always produce a healthier lawn. When you mow a lawn with a catcher-less mower, the clippings are free to "feed" the soil. The clippings feed microorganisms in the soil, which break down organic matter into nutrients that living grass and other plants can use. If you consistently use a grass catcher when you mow, you deprive your lawn of these beneficial nutrients and, as a result, you may need to apply larger quantities of fertilizer to keep the lawn healthy.
A grass catcher is an extra component that -- like the mower it is attached to -- requires periodic maintenance. Maintenance issues with grass catchers can include ripped bag or container linings, rusted or loose screws and rusted or damaged connection pieces.
Cost and Compatibility
With many lawn mower models, a grass catcher is not a standard feature but a product that you must purchase separately. This added cost could be problematic for consumers who are on a budget. If you do decide to purchase a grass catcher, be wary of the type you choose. Manufacturers often design grass catchers to work with specific lawn mower models. So even if you choose a catcher of the same brand as your mower, it may not be compatible.