The health of one’s lawn is a significant consideration for most homeowners. You want to be pleased with the results of your lawn-care efforts when you put in the time and effort. Mowing your lawn is a great way to add free fertilizer to your grass, but it may also leave behind an unsightly mess. Mulching and side discharge are two of the most typical methods for disposing of grass clippings that you produce during your lawn maintenance routine.
Mulching vs. Side Discharge – How to Decide
When deciding between mulching vs side discharge when mowing it really comes down to this:
- How big is your lawn?
- What are the mowing conditions like (long or short grass, wet or dry)?
- What is the area surrounding your lawn like (buildings, windows, cars close by)?
If you want to use your grass clippings as a natural fertilizer, have grass that is shorter and drier, and have the time to walk a bit more slowly, mulching is the better option for you. If, on the other hand, you have a large open area that you want to mow fast, you are not bothered about reusing your clippings, or you have an area of long and/or wet grass to manage, the side discharge option is an excellent choice for you.
What’s the Difference Between Side Discharge and Mulching?
Mowers with a side discharge will cut the blade of grass and then quickly eject the clipped grass blades out of the side of the mower after the cutting is complete. The side discharge chute on this style of mower creates an open flow of air, which results in a greater degree of suction than other types of mowers. Because the clippings are being blown away from the mower, there will be less clogging of the blades, and as a result, there will be less loss of power. You may find that you are able to mow at a faster pace as a result of this. Even while it can result in more mess, this kind of mowing is ideal for cutting extra-long grass, grass that is damp, and huge lawns where efficiency is of the utmost importance.
Mulching lawn mowers either do not have any openings on the sides or, if they do allow you the option, they feature a side discharge chute that can be closed. Because the very fine pieces will break down more quickly than the longer blade pieces, mulching is an excellent technique to get the most out of your clippings and maximize their potential use. When used on longer or wetter grass, the design of a mulching mower causes it to collect more of the grass clippings than a conventional mower would. This results in decreased efficiency. This type is perfect for locations that have a lot of sidewalks or gardens that need to be kept clean, as well as for well-maintained lawns where only a small tip of the blade will be cut off. It is also suitable for lawns that are not very large.
Mulching vs. Side Discharge- Which is Better?
Both methods are useful, but one may be better for your unique circumstances than the other. There are pros and cons to each:
Pros of Mulching
Grass clippings are an essential source of nitrogen for your lawn, and the mulching mower will chop these clippings up into tiny pieces that are easily broken down. The clippings will also fall into the grass right beneath the mower, leading to a nice even coating that will break down readily.
For mowing a small lawn that is surrounded by gardens or sidewalks, you may find that mulching is the best way to go. Clippings will stay right under the mower with mulching vs. side discharge where they will be blown several feet away. This will also be useful in small areas close to buildings or driveways, where you will not want to blow clippings onto walls or cars.
Mulching mowers can reduce the hazards associated with side discharge mowing. The mulching mower will keep everything contained under the mower instead of flinging it out of the side. This can be useful in areas where people or cars might be nearby during mowing.
Cons of Mulching
Due to the design of a mulching mower, the mower is more prone to becoming bogged down with excess grass. You may find that you have to move slower with the mulching mower to prevent this.
Not Great for Long or Wet Grass
Long grass and damp regions can be problematic with mulching mowers because the mower does not have a mechanism that can swiftly discharge the clippings. Once wet grass has dried and caked on the inside of the deck, it has nowhere to go and may prevent the blades from spinning in the correct direction. This could also result in clumps and an excessive amount of mess. In places like this, you will need something that can swiftly clear the deck of excess clippings so that you can continue moving forward.
May Not Offer as Clean of a Cut
Where a side discharge mower creates a strong vacuum due to the airflow, the mulching mower does not. The lack of this updraft on the blades of grass may cause some not to be picked up all the way, and that could leave you with blades that are not cut, while others are.
Pros of Side Discharge
Quicker/Great for Large Areas
The side discharge mower is great for large areas of lawn where there are not many obstacles, and you can just allow the grass to blow in any direction. This will allow for very quick mowing, as the clippings are ejected from inside the mower instantly, allowing the blades to keep spinning at full speed and allowing you to keep moving.
Useful for Extra- Long or Wet Areas
Since the mower has an opening on the side, you will be able to go through areas of tall or wet grass without them bogging your mower down. The mower will eliminate the extra-long or wet clippings before they build up inside, which would cause the blades to slow down among other problems.
Provides a Great Cut
The airflow created by a side discharge chute can give you a superior cut to a mulching mower. The blades suck air from under the mower and blow it out the side, and that airflow gets under any blades of grass that are laying down. This will pick up the blades so each one can be cut at a uniform length.
Cons of Side Discharge
With a side discharge setup, you will be blowing the clippings several feet away from the side of the mower. The wet clippings will create a mess on buildings, cars, sidewalks, and any other surfaces that you direct the discharge chute towards. In situations where you are mowing wet or long grass, this can also leave clumps on your lawn. This will create more unnecessary cleanup.
In areas where there are many people, cars or windows, a mower that ejects clippings, sticks, and rocks at high speeds can be dangerous. The direction of your mower’s discharge will always have to be in the back of your mind, especially in these areas.
Less Effective Use of Clippings
The grass clippings that you cut will be blown away from where you are mowing, and this is undesirable for fertilization purposes. You want the clippings to fall into the soil, and to be spread evenly across your lawn. The quick ejection of the clippings also leaves them larger and while they will still readily break down in the soil, it will not be as quick as finer pieces created when mulching.
When Mulching is a Good Option
You should consider mulching your grass clippings if you have a small lawn, it is properly managed, it is surrounded by walkways and gardens, or it is located close to buildings and people. This will prevent the grass clippings from spraying all over your house, and it will also enable them to be ground into a fine fertilizer for your lawn. Mulching equipment forces users to move at a more leisurely pace, so it is best suited for tending to smaller lawns.
When Side Discharge is a Good Option
When you have a vast, open space to mow and the flying clippings are not going to be a problem, a side discharge mowing arrangement is a terrific option for you to consider. Because the inside of the deck has a self-clearing nature, you won’t have to worry about it getting clogged up while you’re moving around on it. If you have to mow very wet grass or grass that is taller than usual, a side discharge mower might be especially helpful for both of these situations.
Some questions that commonly come up when considering if you should mulch vs side discharge:
Can You Use the Same Blade for Mulching and Side Discharge?
There are certain key distinctions to be made between mulching blades and side discharge blades. The updraft that is created by mulching blades is intentionally reduced so that the clippings can remain in the mower deck for a longer period of time. In a typical blade, the airflow is designed to be as efficient as possible so that the cuttings can be expelled as quickly as feasible. In a side-discharge mower, mulching blades may be used if the mower is designed to accommodate their use. It is possible that doing so will be helpful if you would like to produce less discharge or grind up your clippings more. Standard mower blades can be used in a mulching mower, but doing so runs the risk of leaving clumps or increasing the amount of accumulation that occurs inside the mower. The reason for this is that normal blades are not intended to chopper up the clippings as finely as they may be.
Do Mulching and Side Discharge Mowers Have Different Decks?
In the majority of instances, there will be a distinction between a mulching deck and a side discharge deck. Typically, the mulching mower will have an enclosed deck, which enables the clippings to be cut up while still being contained within the mower. The side discharge mower will have a big aperture on the side, typically with a chute connected, to eject the cut grass. Side discharge mowers are the most common type of mower.
Can I Modify My Mower to Mulch if Needed?
Using a mulching kit, which is an accessory that covers the side discharge opening, it is simple to transform a side discharge deck into a mulching deck. This may be done with a side discharge deck. If you decide to use this alteration, you should probably also make use of a mulching blade. It is not typical practice to use a mulching deck for side discharge because the deck itself would need to be modified by cutting away metal in order to make an entrance for the material. When a mower has an Operator Controlled Discharge Chute, it means that the side discharge opening has a cover that can be opened and closed by the operator while they are mowing. In some cases, a mower will have both of these features. Mulching can therefore be used in specific portions of a lawn when it is necessary to do so, while side discharge can still be used in other parts of the lawn.
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