What is a Mulching Mower?
Mulching is the process of using your own grass clippings as fertilizer. Dropping the finely-cut grass onto your lawn allows it to blend in with the soil’s surface and break down, releasing nutrients that improve the health of your turf.
Instead of buying mulch and placing it around certain areas of a lawn, a mulching mower uses grass clippings to spread a compost throughout your yard. The mulch produced by your own lawn mower provides essential nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus that your lawn needs to stay healthy.
Mulching kits are available for both tractor-style lawnmowers and push-mowers. The question isn’t whether you should mulch, but rather what mulching mower would be best for you. That’s what we’ll be discussing in this post.
Why Should You Mulch Your Lawn?
If you’re accustomed to bagging your clippings, you know what a hassle it can be to stop what you’re doing, remove the bag, throw everything away, and then hook everything up again. Not only are you throwing away clippings that could be recycled, but you’re also repeating a tedious task over and over again. Self-bagging mowers were a great idea – but not as great as mulching mowers.
Mulching mowers also save you money by fertilizing your lawn naturally and save you time by doing so immediately. Rather than taking the bag off your mower and throwing things away, or trying to keep a compost pile, why not cut the cost and time in half by fertilizing as you mow?
Create a healthier lawn you can be proud of, and do it all in one step. The options available today are to purchase a mulching mower itself or use a mulching kit to convert the mower you already have into a mulching mower.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Mulching Blades
There are far more benefits to using mulching blades than standard blades. This is because mulching blades are still capable of doing all the tasks normal blades can accomplish and more, such as discharging and bagging the clippings.
With the added benefit of being capable of mulching, these blades are often called “3-in-1” or “all-purpose” blades. These blades shred the grass into much finer pieces, creating an easier and quicker decomposing process.
Opting to use a mulching blade and mulching your lawn means no need to dump the collected grass clippings in a compost pile and less work for you. On the downside, mulching your lawn means clippings that are resting on the top of the grass and are now easier to be tracked into one’s home and leave grass stains.
Standard lawn mower blades are limited to the simple functions of just cutting and discharging the grass clippings. Because the grass does not encounter more blade surface, it is not as finely cut as it would be with a mulching blade and thus take longer to break down to recycle its nutrients back to the soil.
The Best Mulching Blades
Often, mowers that are capable of mulching look identical to those that do not because often the only difference may be the blade being used. As mentioned before, many lawn mowers can be adapted to do such by changing out the blades.
As for the best mulching blade, there’s a lot to factor in, including personal preference. Make sure you know ahead of time what size you’ll need.
It’s also a good idea to buy from a store that allows returns in case the blade doesn’t fit your mower correctly. There are tons to choose from, but they’re pretty easy to find – for instance, there are several fantastic options on Amazon.
Maxpower 331981S Blades
The Maxpower 331981S 21-inch universal (check price on Amazon) is our top pick. It’s about the same price as the Arnold but comes with specialized cutting teeth intended for a finer cut, and with a centrifugal airlift design, the grass is evenly distributed throughout the lawn.
It also comes with a cover washer, and 6 reducing washers. This one is a little wider, at 4 inches, but is still lightweight at 2 pounds. And best of all they’re built to fit most riding lawn mowers including Poulan, Craftsman, and Husqvarna because they include multiple different adapters for ease of attachment to your mower.
Be careful not to mount the blade upside-down. If you think it’s not working very well, flip the thing over. People have described this blade as a miracle cure. It comes pre-sharpened, but you may want to double check the edges.
Arnold Universal 3-in-1 Blades
The Arnold Universal 3-in-1 mulching blade (check price on Amazon) is a great option because the same brand sells different lengths of blade, from 20 inches to 22 – something Arnold must have learned after 50 years in business.
The strong metal blade and unique tooth design shred grass to ultrafine pieces with the idea of returning key nutrients back to the soil. It’s pre-sharpened as well so you can run right out and try it right away.
It also comes with adapters and washers that can help make sure everything is locked in tight. It’s also extremely lightweight, at just 1.75 pounds.
Oregon Gator Mulcher Blades
If you’re willing to spend a few (and we really do mean a few) extra bucks, check out the Oregon Gator line of mulching blades (check price on Amazon). The blade is 2.5 inches wide, and a little heavier than most, at 3 pounds.
That means you’ll want to make sure your equipment is in good enough shape to handle the weight before you install it. Their specific patented design means that their mulching blades are capable of clipping grass of all shapes, sizes, and heights.
The difference in using their uniquely shaped blades is really noticeable compared to the average blade your mower arrives with because of the exclusive Gator Mulcher feature on every Gator blade. This detail creates outstanding bagging and discharge efficiency with better bagging, better mulching, and better discharge.
Using Blade Adapters
Blade adapters connect your mower’s shaft to your blade. Your stock adapter could have a different blade mounting hole than your mulching blade of choice. In that case you could swap out the adapter to fit. Here is a list of common blade adapters on Amazon for popular consumer lawn mowers. If you want to see one replaced, this video shows the whole process.
Using A Mulching Kit
Normally, lawn mowers have a side or rear chute that propels the clippings either onto a lawn to be bagged later or into an attached bag. The mulching kit chops the clippings into significantly smaller pieces so that they decompose much faster.
The kit itself includes the mulching blade, the pieces needed to attach the kit, and a plug to fill the mower’s discharge opening so that clippings aren’t blown outward the way they normally are.
Mulching kits allow you to convert a normal mower to a mulching mower. Mulching kits can be an ideal investment if you already own a mower that suits your needs. It’s also much cheaper to buy a mulching kit than it is to purchase a brand new mower.
It’s important to note though that if your grass has gotten extremely long, you may want to bag your clippings rather than mulch them. Even the reduced-sized clippings could be a bit long if the grass is too unkempt when you go in with the mower.
Some folks like to keep the mulching blade on even as they’re bagging because the smaller clippings are easier to manage.
Finding the perfect blades for your mower may require some research and understanding what the specifications are for your mower. If you don’t have the owner’s manual for your mower, a simple search on the internet of the model number will provide you with the requirements for your blade purchase. Key points to know are the length of the blade, the size, and shape of the hole in the middle of the blade for attaching to the mower, and the number of blades required.
Most lawn mowers have specific kits built for them, which can be searched easily on Amazon. All you need to do is type in the mower and explore your kit options. The prices vary widely, so make sure to do your research, and that you’re able to return something if it doesn’t fit. Amazon is a great option for these types of purchases because they always allow returns.
All in all, NOT mulching is costing you time and money. Mulching mowers allow you to return nutrients to your own lawn, rather than purchasing fertilizer separately, and eliminates the waste of extra products like plastic bags. The question isn’t whether you should mulch, but which mulching mower is best for you.