Mulching is one of those topics that people can find confusing. What many people will think of at the mention of mulch is 'blanket' or 'carpet' style mulching. That is, laying down a protective layer, mainly organic material (but sometimes carpets, pebbles etc) spread out on the soil to keep it warm, protect it from frost, or cut down on the ingress of weeds.
This is not wrong, but it is not the whole story. Mulching for the lawn is different , and involves the organised recycling of grass clippings to improve the health of your turf.
What is Mulching in Lawncare?
Mulching the lawn involves the double-cutting of grass, mowing then re-cutting within the deck to create much smaller grass cuttings which are then deposited into the lawn. Once in the lawn they will break down fats and help to fertilise the lawn.
Why Should I Mulch?
The advantages of mulching are well worth considering. This process can be very beneficial, providing extra nutrients for the turf, creating a more beautiful, greener and healthier looking lawn. It is also a great way of recycling mowing waste.
It also reduces cutting time, you don't have to be walking backwards and forwards to the compost heap with your cuttings, and if you believe in organic gardening it is a great way of using natural resources to improve the well-being of your lawn, and harvest the benefits of the nitrogen they produce rather than wasting them.
More and more people are considering mulching as part of a bio or ecologically sound approach to gardening, and to caring for the lawn.
Do I Need Special Equipment?
Yes. You will either need a dedicated mulching mower or a mower that includes mulching as one of its features.
The mulching process requires a specially shaped blade and, in dedicated mulchers, a special deck design to help keep the clippings moving around the blade. For this reason, dedicated mulching decks are often rounded and sealed, usually higher and roomier, allowing space for the clippings to move around and sometimes they have deflectors to direct the clippings.
The decks and blades of dedicated mulching lawn mowers are designed specifically for this, with the decks creating the perfect airflow, and the right shaped blade to re-cut the clippings and push them down rather than throwing them back or sideways and out.
How Exactly Does The Mulching Process Work?
See the diagram (below) The grass is cut but the deck shape keeps the clippings up in the air above the cutting-blades after cutting for the first time, then they drop and are re-cut, after which the vacuum created by the specially shaped blade forces the grass clippings downwards into the turf to break down quickly and provide nitrogen and phosphates, which permeate the soil to increase the health of the lawn.
How mulching works in a dedicated mulching mower
Can I Mulch Without Using A Dedicated Mulching Mower?
Yes. There are lawnmowers that offer mulching as well as collection. A combi-lawnmower, often identified by offering 3-in-1, 4-in-1 performance, will offers grass collection and sometimes side-discharge as well as mulching, a kit is usually required, either with the mower or as an optional extra.
Which Type pf Mower Gives the Best Results?
Both a dedicated mulching mower and a combi mower with mulching facility will do the job. The best results, though, are probably going to come from a dedicated mulcher as the whole machine is designed from this task.
However, notably, some mowers such as Toro's Recycler and Super Recycler ranges, are designed primarily as mulching mowers with collection and /or side discharge as an option rather than the other way round where a primarily collecting mower has a mulch plug or kit.
Many of these models allow you to move quickly between mulching or collection at the flick of a switch.
What Is In A Mulching Kit?
The kit will usually contain the mulching blade, a mulch plug to prevent the clippings from being expelled through the grass exit channel and sometimes a deflector or deflectors that help direct the clippings in the deck so they can be re-cut before being deposited into the turf.*
In What Way Are The Blades Different?
If you look at the mulching blade (A) compared to the conventional cutting blade (B), you can see the difference. The mulching blade tip is is angled to create the vacuum that forces the grass cuttings downwards.
(A) Specialist mulching blade
(B) conventional deck and blade
Are There Mulching Ride-ons?
Yes. Mulching mowers com in many shapes and sizes, just as conventional cutting mowers do. There are push, self-propelled and mulching ride on mowers and lawn tractors.
How Often Should I Mulch?
You should Probably mow once a week (leave 7 days between) during the cutting season. You don't want to over cut or damage the grass so no more than this and any longer the grass will start to grow too tall for the volume of clippings.
Should I Cut To The Same Height As When I Am Collecting?
No. You need to make sure the grass is left about 1.30cm (half an inch approx) longer than you would leave it for collecting. However, as you will be advised whatever mower you use, don't cut more than a third off your grass at a time. This helps root growth and hides the clippings in the grass.
However, don't let your lawn grow much above 8cm (3ins) if you are mulching. The clippings need to be buried in the lawn and there would be too high a volume of clippings for this to work.
Do I Need To Do Any Extra Maintenance with My Mower?
Yes. Mulching will blunt blades quicker than regular mowing due to the amount of time the blade makes contact with the grass in each cut. You will, therefore, need to sharpen blades more often if you are mulching.
You should also make sure you keep your deck clean. All mower decks need to be kept clean to stop rotting grass causing damage and with mulching mowers those finely cut clippings can get everywhere.
I've Heard That Mulching Can Lead To An Increase in Thatch?
There is no evidence for this. Thatch is mainly caused by grass blades, which don't rot, dying and falling within the grass plants, gradually filling up that space. The clippings you are putting in the grass will break down very quickly and will not lead to thatch. In fact, by putting more nitrogen into the grass you are helping the lawn feed more efficiently not choking it.
Is There Anything Else I Need To Do?
Yes. If you are going to water the lawn, you are better off doing it after you cut, never before. It is easier to cut and spread dry clippings in the lawn than wet ones. For this reason, also, as mentioned before, it is advisable to mulch cut your lawn on dry days and after the morning dew has dissipated.
Can I see Some Mulching Mowers?
MowDirect carry a large range of mulching mowers, from the dedicated models to the 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 and from hand-propelled mowers to mulching ride-on models as discussed earlier.
However, if you do need further advice, just call our product advisors on 0345 4588 905 (9am-5pm Mon-Fri 10am-4pm Sat). They are friendly, helpful and know their stuff.
“Excellent Product and Outstanding Service . The advice I received from MowDirect was spot on and this product was perfect.." PAUL
* NB. It is not essential to use dedicated mulch blades with a combi-mower. You can only mulch grass at very short lengths so you need to cut and collect the grass first, then put in the mulch plug and go over the grass again to mulch. If you regularly use the machine on the mulch setting the grass is kept so short that the cut and collect first is unnecessary. Our UK weather means that optimum mulching conditions (very dry grass) are probably only possible about 4 weeks so we recommend keeping on the combo-blades that come as standard with the machine. these still work as they are designed for this purposes. If you want to use dedicated mulching blades you ned to take the cutting blades off then put mulching blades on, then use the machine, then remove mulching blades and put the normal blades back on.