Mulching Vs. Side Discharge: Which Option Is Better And Why?

Different people have different ideas about what lawn maintenance entails. For some, it’s simply a matter of cutting the grass to acceptable levels. For others, it means improving the overall appearance of their yard and tailoring it to their particular specifications.

It’s typical to debate the benefits of mulching vs. side discharge when selecting how to mow your grass to achieve the best results. Side discharge mowers are more adaptable and perform better than mulching mowers in most settings. However, mulching mowers work well in small yards where the primary purpose is to keep grass clippings away from gardens and paved areas.

Is There A Difference Between Side-Discharge, Mulching, And Bagging Mowers?

Yes, there is. Grass blades are left behind by both side-discharge and mulching mowers. However, a mulching blade slices up clippings into finer bits, allowing them to degrade faster and not clump as rapidly.

If you use a side-discharge mower, you may need to do your own mulching by going over your grass piles several times. You’ll also have to do extra labor if you use a bagging mower. While you mow, you’ll have to haul, collect, and dump your debris.

Let’s now take a closer look at the three various ways to dispose of your lawn clippings. The way you chose to dispose of them may influence the appearance and the overall health of your grass.

Mulching Explained

Mulching appears to be the most difficult of the three options discussed above since it necessitates the use of a lawnmower with a closed mowing deck and appropriate mulching blades. 

Notably, any grass picked up by these blades is cut and recut until only the tiniest remnants of grass remain. They are cut so small you won’t be able to see them when it’s deposited back on your grass.

Before you can mulch your lawn, there are a few things you need to consider. The grass height is one example. Mulching blades, no matter how good they are, cannot handle tall grass.

As a result, before you can try mulching, you may need to explore one of the other two alternative grass-cutting disposal techniques. This also suggests that mulching should be done on a frequent basis; otherwise, the grass would grow too tall for the process to work.

Moisture in the grass is another factor that may impede mulching. You’ll have to wait for the grass to dry, which can be difficult if your area experiences regular rain, depending on the season. Finally, mulching mowers take far more power than other types of mowers. Consider this if you haven’t purchased a mower yet, as it can significantly increase the cost of the machine.

One feature that owners of mulching mowers appreciate is that they leave little sign of the mowing process aside from the well-trimmed grass. Furthermore, these devices mulch any leaves that may have accumulated in your yard during the fall.

You should be aware that the design of the mulching blades differs significantly from that of conventional mower blades. This is how they can trim the clippings many times before depositing them back into your grass. Copperhead toothed mulching blades are the most popular.

Pros Of Mulching

  • There are few or no apparent grass cuttings
  • Maintains nutrition levels in the lawn
  • Mowing nonstop
  • Can mulch leaves that fall into the lawn
  • Less likely to toss a rock or other potentially harmful object

Cons Of Mulching

  • Not recommended for damp or tall grass
  • It is possible that this will contribute to the buildup of thatch
  • It is more expensive
  • Not ideal for big backyards

Side Discharge Explained

Side discharge mowers are the traditional mowing option and are preferred by many homeowners and lawn care firms. They cut well but are often dirtier than mulching mowers.

Before making a decision, weigh the benefits and drawbacks. For starters, most households do not maintain a regular lawn-trimming schedule. They simply do it when they get the opportunity. 

Because the mowing schedule is erratic, the grass is likely to grow tall before anyone notices. Mulching, as previously said, does not work with tall grass. When using the side discharge, however, the mowers should have no trouble cutting the grass, regardless of size.

Side Discharge Pros

  • Mowing tall or damp grass is best accomplished with a side discharge mower
  • Allow for continuous operation and faster mowing
  • Cutting tall or wet grass yields good results

Side Discharge Cons

  • Clippings are strewn around
  • Mowers with less power can leave clumps of grass on the lawn, which can cause brown stains
  • Seeds and grass can be thrown into flower beds
  • Anything that gets under the mower deck has the potential to be shot toward automobiles, houses, or people

Bagging Explained

If you don’t mulch or side discharge your grass clippings when you mow the lawn, your only alternative is to bag them. For this, you’ll need a bagging attachment that you can clip to the back of your mower.

During this process, the blades cut the grass while the machine collects the cuttings in a bag. Of course, while the mower collects the clippings, it also collects other little trash and leaves.

One inconvenient element of bagging is that the attachments must be emptied on a regular basis while you’re mowing. As a result, as compared to the other two, this can result in a longer mowing operation. This is also one of the reasons why people with huge homes avoid it. However, bagging can work well if you have a small or tiny lawn or yard.

Furthermore, unlike mulching, it works even when the grass is moist. Notably, bagging will leave your lawn looking fantastic because the clippings will be disposed of elsewhere. However, the nutrients in the clippings may be lost forever. You can, however, compost the clippings and reintroduce them into your grass later. Keep in mind that this type of lawnmower requires extra power while bagging to suck the clippings into the bag attachments.

Bagging Pros

  • By removing seed heads from the grass, you can help eliminate weeds
  • This option provides the most professional appearance
  • Works even when the lawn is damp
  • Remove all lawn debris, such as grass clippings and leaves
  • Less likely to toss a rock or other potentially harmful object

Bagging Cons

  • It takes longer since grass clippings must be disposed of throughout the mowing operation
  • You must have a location for dumping lawn cuttings
  • Takes away free nutrients from the lawn
  • To cut successfully, a lawnmower with a high enough horsepower is required

Can Mulching Blades Be Used With Side Discharge?

Many contemporary mower models have blades that may be used in both mulching and side discharge applications. While there are special blades for each procedure, multipurpose blades are becoming more widespread. If your mower has a multifunctional blade, it can be used for mulching as well as side discharge.

Is It Possible To Mulch With A Side-Discharge Mower?

You may easily convert your side discharge mower into a mulching mower if you’re tired of cleaning up grass clippings or spreading grass and weed seeds in your garden. Simply buy and install a mulching blade for your mower, as well as a restrictor plate that prevents the side discharge chute from being used.

Mulching conversion kits are available for most makes and models of side discharge mowers and are simple to install. With only a few minutes of effort, you may say goodbye to the mess of side discharge and begin mulching.

Now that we have fully discussed the benefits and drawbacks of all three ways to mow your lawn, we will now answer some additional questions that may arise when thinking of your lawn care and overall health.

Are Grass Clippings Good For Your Lawn?

Allowing the freshly cut grass to be dispersed on the lawn is one of the best ways to mow to improve grass health. Grass clippings are an excellent natural fertilizer since they decompose and return nutrients to your grass.

Recycling your turfgrass clippings minimizes the amount of fertilizer you’ll need because it retains the nitrogen in the lawn. This means that if you throw away your clippings, you’re also throwing away half of the fertilizer you already applied.

Can Leaving Too Many Grass Clippings On My Lawn Harm It?

Yes, it could. Excessive clumps and heavy matting of grass clippings can discolor and possibly kill portions of your lawn if you don’t mow frequently enough.

This may require you to mow more than once a week during peak growing seasons in order to remove only 1/3 of the grass blade each time you mow. It’ll take you more time to mow since you’ll have to do it every 4-5 days, but you’ll have a lot better-looking and healthier grass in the long run.

Are Grass Clippings Safe To Use As Compost In My Garden?

Not if herbicides or other products, such as insecticides, were used. In that case, you should not use them as compost in your garden but only use them on your grass.

Final Thoughts

The best solution in the mulching vs. side discharge vs. bagging argument is the one that works best for you. Weigh in the benefits and cons of each one carefully, and then make your decision.

After all, the method you use to handle your lawn care cuttings is very dependent on your personal goals and on the size and state of your lawn.