When you are looking to buy a new mower a feature you’ll undoubtedly run across is the ability to mulch-mow. But just what is mulch-mowing and do you really need it? Here’s a look at what it’s all about.
What is mulch mowing?
In a broad sense mulch-mowing is any sort of mowing where the clippings fall back onto the lawn as they are cut. Even large ride-ons and commercial-grade side-discharge mowers are technically mulch mowing, albeit in a very basic way.
Today the term is generally applied to a mower that has a specialised cutting disc and blade system. These suck lawn clippings up above the blade-disc and then, in the blink of an eye, repeatedly slice and dice them to micro clippings before blowing them back down into the turf thatch.
What are the advantages of mulch mowing?
# Time – Mulch mowing is faster as you don’t need to stop and empty your catcher.
# Reduces waste – You don’t have mountains of lawn clippings left once you’ve mown.
# A better finish – A mower with a catcher fitted will slowly sink lower into the lawn as the catcher fills and it becomes heavier. This means that the height of the cut can vary. You won’t have this issue when mulch mowing.
# Better for your lawn – Those micro-clippings work just like mulch on your garden beds. Shielding grass roots from temperature extremes and helping to retain moisture.
# Better for your soil – All of those micro-clippings are quickly broken down by soil microorganisms helping to improve soil structure. Every mulch-mow is like lightly, organically feeding your lawn and soil!
# Better for the environment – Rather than being treated as waste that requires disposal, clippings become a useful, reused product with zero effort required to do so. Lawns that are mulch mown tend to be much better at reducing water, and nutrient, runoff due to their denser, healthier growth and have greatly improved water and nutrient absorption as the soil quality and structure is improved.
Are there times I shouldn’t mulch mow?
There are a few situations where you may need to stick with conventional catcher mowing.
# Wet lawns. If you absolutely have to mow a wet lawn, after rain or heavy dew, then you are best to do so with a catcher fitted. If you don’t you may find the clippings aren’t adequately mulched and tend to clump together.
# Long lawns. If you’ve left a lawn get way too long then the best technique is to reduce its height in two passes. For the first pass switch back to using a catcher with the mower deck set on high. On the second pass, in most circumstances, you can reduce the cut height to a more typical level and switch to mulch-mowing.
What if my mower isn’t a mulching model?
Although you won’t get a 100% identical true mulch-mow without using a mulching model you can use a simple two-pass technique to mimic mulch-mowing.
# On the first pass set the mower one or two clicks higher than your intended finished height.
# On the second pass drop to the final preferred cut height. You’ll find the mower picks up those first pass clippings and recuts them while trimming that last little bit to get your desired finished height.
On a really thick or lush lawn you may need to make a third pass in some sections just to get it tidy.