Mulching, recycling, bio clipping – these will be familiar words to those of you that regularly consult gardening magazines or online grass care forums. However, if you don’t keep up to date with the latest gardening trends they may not mean much at all.
In effect, with regards to grass cutting, they all mean the same thing. It is simply a means to return valuable nutrients back to your lawn using specialised lawn mowers.
It is important to note that it differs from ‘blanket mulching’, a technique often used to surpress the growth of weeds in flower beds using wood chips or a similar medium.
Recycling is a relatively new phenomenon in the UK, gaining popularity over the last three to four years due to a combination of environmental concerns and the desire for a simpler way to mow garden lawns. When practised properly, mulching can be hugely beneficial to your lawn.
A lot of conflicting advice relating to best mulching practice and type of lawnmower needed is muddying the waters making it hard to know just how to achieve the best mulching results. In the following paragraphs we’ll take a look at some mulching myths and facts and also which lawn mowers you can expect to do the best job. Read on to find out more about the best mulching mowers.
What Is Mulching?
Mulching lawn mowers help to maintain a healthy and green lawn by re-circulating and re-cutting the grass clippings under the mowing deck, producing fine mulch. This mulch is forcibly returned to the lawn where it rapidly decomposes, putting precious nutrients back into the soil.
This helps save on chemical forms of fertilizer and so provides an environmental benefit to your garden. As a result you have no clippings to dispose of, which, happily means no more weekly trips to the tip or having piles of rotting grass in your garden. This, of course, has less of an impact on the environment (fewer road miles, no more black bag usage, less carbon released into the atmosphere from rotting vegetation etc.) and leaves you with a verdant and healthy lawn.
When Should I Mulch?
Ideally, you will want to mulch in drier weather. With the climate in the UK being particularly damp for much of the growing season and not necessarily ideal for mulching, many manufacturers are now producing lawn mowers that offer 3 in 1 versatility. These are standard rear-discharge lawn mowers supplied with a mulch plug or similar means of blocking the rear discharge chute, thus holding the grass clippings under the mowing deck.
It needs to be pointed out, however, that this is a compromised design due to virtually all rear discharge lawn mowers cutting the grass clippings relatively few times before discharge.
How To Choose A Multifunctional Mulcher
Many of these lawnmowers are very fine machines though, such as the ‘Versamow’ series of lawn mowers from Honda, comprising the Honda HRX537HY Self-Propelled Lawn Mower with hydrostatic drive, the Honda HRX537HZ with hydrostatic drive plus key starting and the Honda HRX 537 VY with variable speed drive. These lawn mowers are in fact 4 in 1 machines with a lever located behind the engine, enabling the user to alter the rate at which the grass clippings are both recycled and collected concurrently.
Amongst the manufacturers that take the mulch plug option are Hayter and Husqvarna. Both companies produce a large range of ‘3 in 1’ lawn mowers with Hayter offering the new Hayter R53S Recycling Lawn Mower and Hayter R53A Recycling Lawn Mower, built with steel and aluminium decks respectively; also equipped with ‘Sens-a-speed’ variable speed transmission, the mower automatically adjusts to your walking pace through sensors mounted in the handlebars.
More durable is the Toro 20797 4-in-1 Super Recycler Lawn Mower. Built with a die-cast aluminium deck and the option of using a side-discharge chute should the mowing conditions become heavy, a mulch plug is also supplied as standard.
Swedish manufacturer Husqvarna produce some excellent ‘3 in 1’ machines, referred to as ‘TrioClip’ mowers. The Husqvarna R152SVH Lawn Mower benefits from being fitted with the excellent Honda GCV160 OHC petrol engine and offers a more cost effective steel deck with side-discharge chute, also with variable speed transmission.
For The Best Results Choose Single Purpose Mulchers
To benefit from the best mulching results it is absolutely necessary to purchase a ‘true’ mulching lawn mower with a dedicated mulching deck. Specifically designed machines will recycle grass much better than conventional collecting mowers that are later converted to mulching mode using a mulch-plug. The reason for this is in the cutting deck design.
The deck of a dedicated recycler is aerodynamically designed on the underside to make the air – and the grass cuttings suspended in the air – travel in two directions. At the same time as the air and grass clippings move in a rotary direction around the inside of the deck, they also travel in a vortex which allows the grass to pass through the cutting cycle multiple times.
Ultimately both the air and mulched grass particles are forced from the cutting deck with a positive downward pressure, whereby the mulched particles of grass are forced into the base of the turf. It is in the base of the turf where the particles are broken down by micro-organisms and turned into valuable nutrients for your lawn.
In addition to specially designed cutting decks, mulching mowers also feature a specially designed blade, often with twin edges, further enhancing the under-deck dynamics and chopping performance.
More and more manufacturers are producing stand-alone mulching machines, many of which are equipped with a side-discharge chute just in case the mowing conditions are a bit too lush and heavy for quality mulching. These machines can often double-up as rough ground mowers, ideal for orchards and untidy verges.
One such machine is the new Honda HRS536SDE Mulching Lawn Mower, which, with a lightweight, aerodynamically designed steel mulching deck and side-discharge option makes it practical for homeowners with mixed grounds where collection of the grass clippings would be less than ideal.
Not necessarily a true mulching lawn mower but more of an all terrain grass cutter is the Hayter Hayterette, still going strong and almost unchanged after 50 years; four swinging blades, specifically designed to deal with rough grass, will leave a rough mulch on less formal areas and at the same time protect the engine crankshaft from damage.
If you need truly professional quality mulching results look no further than the Husqvarna M 53S Pro; ‘BioClip’ mulching technology ensures that the cutting results are at their optimum, even in damp conditions that can cause chopped clippings to stick to the underside of the cutting deck. The M 53S Pro is equipped with a robust, cast aluminium chassis, vibration dampened handlebars, double ball bearing mounted wheels and a self-drive mechanism.
Whichever machine or mulching method you chose, the general rule of thumb is for mulching to take 30% less time than conventional lawn mowing (with grass collection), mostly due to the lack of stops to empty the grass collector. If you follow the steps below, you should be on your way to a lush green lawn this summer:
Follow the ‘one-third’ rule. Never cut more than the top third of the grass, even if the grass is 6 inches long. The best mulching decks can’t cope with a grass clipping overload!
Leave grass about half an inch longer than you would normally if you were discharging or collecting the clippings. This helps retain moisture and suppress weed growth.
Keep your mower blades sharp. Mulching will dull blades faster than other methods of mowing. Also, keep the underside of the mowing deck clean with a nylon brush. This is essential as it maintains the vital ingredient for successful recycling; airflow.
Water the lawn after mowing, not before. Soaking the lawn after mulching makes clippings settle better and speeds up decomposition. Also, wet grass sticks to your lawn mower, lessening the quality of results.
Reduce fertiliser usage. Research suggests that 121lbs of nitrogen; 112lbs of potash and 38lbs of phosphate are available from ½ acre of mulched lawn clippings in one year.
If you have any queries or doubts about any aspect of lawn care, please don’t hesitate to call us at LawnMowers Direct on tel. 01603 255825.