Mulching vs Side Discharge – What’s Best for Your Grass?

Man pushing mower mowing grass in the garden

If you mulch your lawn, you will spread the cuttings evenly across the lawn, and they will decompose naturally. If you use a side discharge mower, the cuttings will be ejected from the mower in straight rows, which you can then pick up easily. Mulching is better for the health of your lawn, but cleaning up cuttings will make it look nicer.

In lawn care, a lively debate persists: mulching vs. side discharge, which is best? The answer lies in the type of lawn mower used and how they handle grass clippings.

Whether cutting wet grass with a mulching blade or tall grass with a side discharge mower, each method has unique benefits and drawbacks.

Discharge mowers, with their distinctive discharge chute, spread cut grass across the lawn, while mulching mowers turn clippings into a natural fertilizer.

In the following sections, we’ll dive deeper into these methods, their impact on your lawn’s health, and which might be best for your green oasis.

Understanding Mulching and Side Discharge Mower

Mulching and side discharge are two ways your lawn mower handles grass clippings. Each method has its unique processes and effects on your lawn. Let’s understand what they are all about.

Defining Mulching: More Than Just a Mower

Mulching the lawn with a lawn mower

Mulching is a lawn-care method that goes beyond using a standard mower. With mulching blades, a mulching mower cuts grass and leaves the clippings on the lawn. These clippings act as a natural fertilizer for your lawn, helping to retain moisture and nourish the soil. This also cuts down on how often you need water your lawn, as some of the moisture is returned to the soil.

The mower blades are special, with a curved design that sucks air, chopping cut grass into tiny pieces. Mulching is great for mowing short grass.

But when mowing tall or wet grass, it may leave clumps, which can smother the lawn. It’s best to avoid mulching mode when dealing with long, wet grass.

The Side Discharge Method: A Lawn Mower’s Traditional Role

Side discharge is what you’d typically expect from a lawn mower. With its dedicated discharge chute, a side discharge mower cuts grass and discharges it out the side. This method is great when mowing tall or wet grass, as the mower deck isn’t clogged up with clippings.

The side discharge chute throws grass cuttings to the side of the mower, spreading them over the lawn. This method doesn’t chop clippings as small as a mulching mower, leaving larger grass cuttings on your lawn. It also risks spreading weed seeds if present in the grass.

Whether to mulch or side discharge depends on your lawn’s needs. Regular lawn mowing helps maintain a healthy lawn. Too much mulch can be a problem, so balance is key. Each method can contribute to a healthy lawn if used correctly and at the right time.

Understanding your lawn’s condition and choosing the proper mowing method can make a difference in maintaining your lawn’s health and beauty.

Key Differences Between Mulching Mowers and Side Discharge Mowers

Mulching mowers and side discharge mowers play unique roles in lawn care. They work differently and affect your lawn in various ways. Let’s uncover their key differences. But it is important to note, that neither type of mower is suitable for striping a lawn.

Mulching Blades vs. Side Discharge Blades: How They Shape Your Lawn

Mulching blades and side discharge blades aren’t the same. They’re designed to perform distinct tasks and influence your lawn’s appearance.

Mulching Blades

Mulching mowers use special blades. These blades are curved and help chop grass clippings into small pieces.

These tiny pieces of grass are left on the lawn as mulch. They break down quickly, releasing nutrients back into the soil. Although if you mow the lawn in hot weather, the trimmings may dry out before they mulch properly.

Mulching blades are great for short grass but may struggle with long grass.

Side Discharge Blades

Side discharge mowers use standard blades. These blades cut grass and throw it out of the side discharge chute.

The grass clippings are larger and decompose slower than mulched clippings.

Side discharge mowers handle long grass better, preventing the mower decks from clogging.

Discharge Chute: The Side Discharge Opening That Makes the Difference

Discharge chute on lawn mower

The discharge chute is a crucial part of a side discharge mower. It’s where the cut grass exits the mower. The chute is designed to spread grass clippings evenly across the lawn, reducing clumping.

A mulching mower doesn’t have a side discharge chute. Instead, it keeps the grass clippings within the mower deck, chopping them up until they’re small enough to drop back onto the lawn as mulch.

So, the choice between mulching and side discharge mowers comes down to the specific needs of your lawn and your personal preference. Each has benefits, so understanding the key differences can help you choose a healthy, beautiful lawn.

How Mulching and Side Discharge Handle Grass Clippings

Handling grass clippings correctly is crucial to the health of the lawn. Let’s look at how mulching and side discharge mowers manage these clippings.

The Journey of Grass Cuttings: Mulching vs Side Discharge

Cutting grass goes through different journeys regarding mulching and side discharge. Here’s how it happens:


In mulching, the lawn mower’s curved blades cut the grass and suck it into the cutting deck.

The clippings are chopped into tiny pieces and dropped back onto the lawn. These minute clippings decompose quickly, releasing organic material back into the soil. No need to bag grass clippings!

Side Discharge

With side discharge mowing, grass blades are cut and expelled from the discharge chute.

The cuttings are larger and decompose slower. They spread over the lawn, often requiring raking or bagging, especially if they cover flower beds or other desired areas.

Dealing with Wet Grass: Mowing Wet Grass in Mulching and Side Discharge Modes

Wet and tall grass can be a challenge for any lawn mower. Yet, how do mulching and side discharge handle this?

In mulching mode, mowing wet or tall grass may not be ideal. The wet, long clippings can clump together, making it hard for the mower blade to chop them finely. These clumps can be a safety hazard and may smother grass underneath.

In contrast, a side discharge lawn mower handles wet and tall grasses more efficiently. The clippings are thrown out of the discharge chute. However, remember to direct the clippings away from flower beds, pathways, and compost piles to avoid unwanted mess.

Implications for Lawn Health and Care: Mulching vs. Side Discharge Mower

The choice between mulching and side discharge has significant implications for lawn health and care. Let’s examine how each method can affect your lawn.

Mulching Kit to Mulch Clippings: Natural Fertilizer or a Thatch Buildup Hazard?

A mulching kit turns lawn cuttings into mulch, a fantastic natural fertilizer. The mulch provides nutrients and helps your lawn retain moisture.

But there’s a catch: if you don’t mow your lawn regularly or cut wet grass, the clippings can accumulate and cause thatch buildup.

This thick layer of grass cuttings and other debris can smother your lawn and prevent water and nutrients from reaching the soil. So, with a mulching mower, regular mowing is essential to avoid potential hazards.

Also, consider this. When you mow, the blades suck air and pull the grass up to be cut. This process can disperse weed seed heads throughout your lawn. So, if your lawn has many weeds, mulching might spread them instead of controlling them.

Side Discharge Lawn Mowers and the Long Grass Dilemma: Cutting Tall Grass Efficiently

Push lawn mower cutting grass with side discharge open

Side discharge lawn mowers are the kings of handling tall grasses. Thanks to their design, they can cut tall grasses efficiently and avoid the clogging that can happen with mulching mowers.

The cut grass is discharged from the side chute and spreads over your lawn. This method can be a lifesaver if your lawn has grown wild!

However, remember to direct the discharge away from areas you don’t want to be covered with grass clippings, like flower beds or paths. And while a bagging attachment can help collect the clippings, it’s an extra step that some gardeners might prefer to avoid.

Choosing between mulching and side discharge mowing isn’t just about your preference—it can significantly impact the health and appearance of your lawn. So, understand each method and decide on one.

Choosing the Right Method for Your Lawn: Mulching vs. Side Discharge Mower

Choosing between mulching and side discharge mowing isn’t one-size-fits-all. The best method for your lawn depends on its size and your safety considerations.

Small Lawn vs. Large Lawn: Mulching Mowers or Side Discharge Mowers?

For small lawns, a mulching mower is often the ideal choice. It’s efficient and leaves behind fine lawn clippings that enrich the soil. You cut grass, and it turns into a natural compost pile right on your lawn! However, ensure you mow regularly to avoid thatch buildup.

On the other hand, side discharge mulching is suitable for larger lawns or those with tall grass. It deals effectively with large amounts of cut grass and spreads it over the lawn. The grass cuttings are larger and decompose slower, but this isn’t a problem on a large lawn where they are thinly spread.

The Safety Considerations: Riding Mower in Mulching and Side Discharge Modes

Safety is paramount whether you use riding mowers in mulching or side discharge mode. Both methods have their precautions.

In mulching mode, ensure the cutting deck isn’t clogged with grass cuttings. A clogged deck can be a safety hazard. Regular cleaning can prevent this issue.

In side discharge mode, be careful where the discharge chute is pointing. Always point it away from people, pets, and important areas like windows and cars. The discharge can throw out small stones or other debris, which could be dangerous.

Remember, the right mowing method best suits your lawn’s needs. It ensures your safety. By understanding the advantages and considerations of mulching vs. side discharge mowing; you can make an informed decision for a healthier, safer lawn.

Concluding Thoughts on Mulching vs. Side Discharge: Towards a Healthier Lawn

Choosing between mulching and side discharge mowing comes down to your lawn’s needs. For a small lawn, a mulching mower with its mulching blade can be an efficient choice, turning grass cuttings into nourishing compost.

On larger lawns, a side discharge mower might prove more practical, effectively handling large volumes of grass cut. Whichever method you choose, remember that the goal is a healthier lawn.

Regular mowing, appropriate handling of grass clippings, and safe use of discharge chute all contribute to achieving this goal. Here’s to healthier, happier lawns!

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Michael Harrison

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