What Is A Mulching Lawnmower? The Complete Guide

Approx Reading Time: 18 minutes

Lawnmowers come in different shapes and designs. And depending on the brand of a mower you would like to buy, there are more than a dozen of them in the market. Take, for example, Husqvarna, Efco, Toro, John Deere, and Honda, the best brands always compete for market dominance. It could be that manufacturers are trying to make a lasting impression but you can always be the judge. Most importantly, we recommend carefully weighing out available options before settling on the best mower for the money. In this post, our focus in mulching lawnmowers, and with that, the first question that comes to mind is, what are they?

What is a mulching lawnmower?

A Mulching mower is a lawnmower that cut the grass in very small clippings with its special mulching blades. The clippings will dry up very quickly and disappear in the cut grass. This means that you do not need to remove the cut grass after mowing.

What Is A Mulching Lawnmower? The Complete Guide 1

Mulching lawnmowers have been around for many years. However, sometimes recognizing them from a distance means you have to narrow down to specific features then compare them with your regular mower. You should not ignore the fact that a mulching mower could be a hybrid machine, combining different blade alignments. The most notable fitting on mulching mowers is that they have different blades, usually improvised from those in regular mowers. The blade is modified in such a way that as it cuts grass, there is airflow, making it possible to further shred grass into minuscule pieces as they fall back on the deck.

The deck creates a vacuum when cutting grass, forcing clippings to the roots of the turf. Thus, to realize the best mulching outcome with these machines, professional lawn caregivers recommend cutting grass about the three-quarter length of grass blades.  You will also note that decks on mulching mowers are different from those you find in regular variants. They are round and sealed, purposely to create an airflow that makes it possible to recycle grass for re-cutting.

Now, before we dig deeper into this subject, more questions come to mind. For example, do mulching mowers deliver excellent performance? What is the difference between them and regular mowers you have always used in your homestead? Which factors/features should you consider when shopping for the best mulching mowers?

The difference between a mulching lawnmower and regular mower

For starters, you will straightaway want to find the difference between mulching and regular mowers. So, let’s make it simple for you using the following table:

Mulching Mowers
Regular Mowers
They do more than cutting grass by further chopping them in tiny pieces hence they help do away with the need to dispose of grass by forcing clippings to the bottom of the turf.
Regular mowers are purposely for cutting overgrown grass, usually to a desirable height.
Blades on mulching mowers have bends and curves that create airflow when cutting grass for the second time as they fall back on the deck.
They have straight blades or high-lift blades that only cut grass then discharges them forcefully upwards or outwards.
The deck in mulching lawnmowers is sealed and round to create a vacuum that forces grass clippings to the roots of the turf. You will also note that some variants have baffles that create a grass circulation mechanism.
They have dome-shaped open decks.
They work in a 3-in-1 mechanism that involves cutting grass and depositing them in a bag/or throwing them off the deck through a chute then further chopping them into small pieces in a final cut.
Regular lawnmowers work in a 2-in-1 mechanism that involves cutting and discharging grass blades through a chute or into a bag.
They have multiple sharp points for cutting grass along the blade length.
They have blades that are only sharp on the edges.

Advantages of using mulching lawnmowers

Having noted the differences between mulching and regular mowers, more questions then follow. Let’s shift our focus to exploring the advantages of mulching lawnmowers. So, you would ask, how do they benefit homesteaders? Well, like your regular turf mower, mulching mowers primarily cut long grass according to the size of the blades. We stated earlier that for a better mulching experience, limit the height of cutting grass to ¾ of the blade of length. Yet, you can still achieve the lowest grass height by adjusting blades in your equipment.

What Is A Mulching Lawnmower? The Complete Guide 2

Now, onto the advantages of mulching turf mowers, we did some homework and found out the following:

● Nourishment for your turf

Every homeowner would love to enjoy a view of a lush green and healthier lawn, hence the need for a dedicated mulching turf mower. After cutting and re-cutting grass, you don’t dispose of the clippings; rather, add them to the soil on which grass grows.  Mulching is definitively a practice where one spreads dead organic matter such as leaves, grass and wood chippings on the soil surface. In the end, dead organic matter rots and mix with the soil, providing plants (grass in this case) with more nutrients.

● Helps conserve soil moisture

Another benefit that comes with owning mulching lawnmowers is that it helps conserve soil moisture, thanks to recycled grass clippings. While you will often cut overgrown grass during spring, rest assured that discharging them to the bottom of grass blades prevents evaporation of soil moisture during summer. And during winter, mowing grass using mulching lawnmowers will create a warmth effect on the soil, keeping away frost most of the days.

● Saves time and money

Most people now buy mulching lawnmowers because they are cost-effective. You save time and money with these machines. The fact that you will not stop midway during a mowing session to empty a collecting bag is a reprieve to those who say regular mowers waste time. And when it comes to saving money, you will not need to buy organic fertilizers for your lawns. As soon as the grass clippings rot, they become a rich source of nitrogen. It also means you will not dispose of grass at a landfill, saving more space for garbage. After all, who wouldn’t want to cut costs that come with disposing waste? Well, we guess everyone!

● Clean and attractive lawns

With conventional mowers, especially those that discharge grass clippings sideways onto the lawn, you have a lot of work to do at the end of the mowing day. And while those that discharge clippings upwards then onto collection bag may do a neat job, mulching mowers are the best. It is the ultimate choice for homesteaders looking to mow and never worry about grass clippings scattered everywhere. They cut grass into tiny pieces then dump them to grassroots.

What is the difference between high-lift blades and mulching blades?

Straightway, you should note that high-lift blades are fittings in regular mowers. Mulching blades, like the name, suggests, make mulching mowers cut grass differently without the need for organic waste disposal. Now, when it comes distinguishing the two, the following are notable features:

  • The first difference you will note with both blades is the design. Mulching blades are curved and have two different grass cutting planes. However, older models are a hybrid of straight blades, slightly curved at the end. On the contrary, high-lift blades have wide wings, often larger than 1-inch. The angular design on the corners of high-lift blades gives an illusion of a larger cutting angle.  Most blades in regular mowers come as layout pairs, often noticeable under the deck.
  • Airflow is another feature that helps distinguish high-lift blades (in regular mowers) and mulching blades. While the latter re-circulate airflow, making it possible to cut grass a second time, high-lift blades operate under voluminous airflow that creates a thrust force out of the deck into a collection bag or onto the lawn.
  • Another way of differentiating the two types of mower is the mechanism by which they work. You will find high-lift blades in standard/regular mowers, sometimes referred to as 2-in-1 blades. They discharge grass clippings at high speed and direct them to a designated collection bag on the back or side of the mower. On the other hand, mulching blades chop grass into finer waste through a re-cutting process (3-in-1) then return them to the soil as mulch.
  • The way both blades handle grass clippings is another way of distinguishing the two. You will realize a higher level of suction power and energy consumption with high-lift blades as they discharge cut grass than you will with mulching blades.
  • Power consumption is another consideration to make when comparing mulching and high-lift blades. There is a need for less horsepower in mulching blades than in high-lift variants.

What are the limitations of mulching blades?

Thus far, it is evident that owning a mulching mower comes with many benefits. But a question about their limitations is always gripping. Do they have downsides, even though they promise so much to a handyman? The truth is that like every machine you may have used, these mowers have disadvantages too. You may want to ask, for example, do they come with high maintenance costs? Well, we dug deeper and found out the following:

● Clogging and thatch pile-up of grass under the deck

Mulching mowers are not suitable for use on overgrown lawns. It is because when mowing, grass clippings will start clogging under the deck. The result is a pile of clippings on the lawn.

● High maintenance cost

While mulching mowers require less energy than conventional variants, they come with high maintenance costs.  Forget about the fact they have many blades and focus on a need to keep them sharp at all times. Because mulching mowers cut grass multiple times to minuscule pieces, their performance, therefore, depends on frequent sharpening. It costs money to sharpen blades, not to mention that you will replace blades in mulching more often than you will with high-lift blades.

● They don’t have a discharge chute

Another drawback of these mowers is the lack of a discharge chute. While this is a feature that may not be necessary given how they cut and shred grass, the risk of clogging under the deck becomes manifest. The occasional pile-up of cut grass is, therefore, something you will notice when using mulching lawnmowers.  The role of a discharge chute in rotary grasscutters (old version of mulching mowers) and regular mowers is to discharge grass into a collection container or to the receptacle when mowing.

● Not very effective on wet grass

The truth is that mulching mowers hardly cut wet grass. Rather, they are ideal for cutting dry grass. It boils down to how they work. Instead of lifting and cutting turf, these mowers press down grass before cutting it hence the challenge with wet mowing conditions. Thus, if you are looking to acquire a brand new lawnmower this winter, we recommend regular/standard variants with high-lift blades. During winter, when grass gets wet often, they clog under the deck of these mowers instead of dancing in between the blades. It is another tricky situation, especially when using mulch lawnmowers.

Choosing the best mulching lawnmower: Buying tips for the handyman

Knowing that a mulching lawnmower will leave your yard looking neat, clean and attractive is comforting for most homesteaders. However, when it comes to buying one, challenges are always bound to come up. So, the next question is how do you choose the best mulching lawn mower for the money? Well, there are many ways to go about it. We sampled the following after testing different models in the market:

● Horsepower/engine type

When it comes to horsepower, you should buy a mower that is powerful enough to deliver optimal performance. Thus, you should ask, what is the ideal horsepower rating for mulching mowers? From our end of the bargain, we would say, anything in the range of 5 and 6 will do a perfect job.  However, with horsepower below 3.5, you will encounter problems, especially when mowing hilly terrains.

And when it comes to engine type, consider a mower with overhead-engine valves. Also, the two-cycle engine will deliver excellent performance on tough grass. It is because the constant ejection of lubricant keeps them on the move as opposed to 4-cycle stand engines that have splash lubrication.

● Technological considerations

Technology will always play a part in most purchase decisions. It is especially true for machines such as mulch lawnmowers. Thus, the big question is, should you go for a specific mulching technology or anything works?  The catch here is that while most mulching mowers have a blade and deck arrangement that facilitates chopping and cutting, additional tech features are worth considering. Take, for example, Toro models that have deflectors on the decks that make cutting damp and thick grass breezy. In other models, fans and baffles facilitate the clipping process.  Still, on technology, you should always look at blade design when shopping for the best mower. 

● Versatility

Versatility often denotes how many tasks a machine can do. In the case of mulching lawnmowers, the question you should ask is, are they convertible? Well, because these types of mowers do not cope well with thick, dense and wet grass, how convertible your newly acquired mower becomes a vital concern. You will fall in love with a mulching mower that is convertible to a machine with a side-discharge chute. It is because disposing of grass becomes easy. It also means that you will worry less about clogging and thatching under the deck.

What Is A Mulching Lawnmower? The Complete Guide 3

During spring, when the grass is lush green and thick, you may want to collect clippings for mulching in your garden. With that comes another concern about versatility. Can you convert the mower into one with a bag, making it possible to collect cut grass? These questions are debatable but when it comes to choosing a good mulching mower for the money, how convertible your selection often plays significance.

● Quality of construction

Quality plays significance when it comes to making purchase decisions. And because most people believe that cheap is expensive, costly mulching mowers are a bit swaying. However, that should not mean anything affordable is bad equipment. Most importantly, buying a strong machine; hence durable should be your top priority. So, let’s put it that you get what your money can afford. If you pay for a cheap mower, you should expect to have quality issues.

From our evaluation, after comparing different mulching mowers in the market, strong mulching mowers with highly efficient blades and decks should cost you about $400. However, you can still get a good one for as low as $300. You don’t want to buy a machine that will cause you a lot of stress due to high maintenance costs because it breaks down after a few hours of mowing.

● Model/brand

Depending on your brand loyalty or preference, a notion that some manufacturers produce better mowers does not always sound far-fetched. However, sometimes the brand is just but a name popularized by marketing speak. When you think John Deere’s brand of lawnmowers is the best, it may turn out that Toro has the best collection of mulching mowers for the money. We recommend comparing different models in the market before settling on one that meets your needs.

● Budget

Money is like fire. It can be a good servant and also a bad master. So, when it comes to choosing a good mulching mower among dozen-plus brands in the market, always ask vital questions. For example, will you buy an expensive one because you have money to spend or because it has a lot to offer? Often, more money means many options. However, having extra bucks to spend should not be a recipe for poor decision-making. While costly mulching mowers are likely to be highly accessorized, do not go for something that you do not need just because there is money to spend.

What Is A Mulching Lawnmower? The Complete Guide 4

Evaluation of quality and cost of these machines may not always go together. Some manufacturers, especially those trying to gain a competitive edge in the market may lower the prices of their lawnmowers. Yet, a closer look at affordable or cheap mowers would reveal they perform optimally well. Moreover, look out for discount coupons when shopping for these machines, especially during this festive season. You could be lucky to land a high-quality mower cheaply.  

● Product warranty

Product warranty should protect buyers from incurring maintenance costs should a mower break down. On this premise, find out if a manufacturer of a mulching lawnmower you are about to buy gives a warranty. If yes, how long does it last? The catch here is that the availability of a warranty is one thing, but its validity is another. Do not run the risk of purchasing mowers with fake irredeemable warranty. You could end up with a machine that is impossible to repair should it develop a technical hitch.

● User ratings/reviews

To crown it all, buying a lawnmower online should be easy, especially if you take a closer look at buyer reviews and ratings. On leading e-Commerce platforms like Amazon and e-Bay where purchases get verified, ratings and reviews reflect a true picture of a product. In the case of mulching mowers, you should find answers to some vital questions. They often shed light on essential features.

The 3 best mulching lawnmowers on the market

With tips on how to choose the best lawnmower at your fingertips, the next thing is walking straight into a farm store to buy a befitting one. But for someone who likes to have his or her purchases delivered at home, e-Commerce stores are undoubtedly convenient shopping platforms. But wait! Do you have a brand in mind or any brand of a mulching mower is okay?

Well, even with handy shopping tips, having many options from which to pick the best mower presents a hard tackle in the eleventh hour. You could end up buying a John Deere instead of a BLACK+DECKER. Thus, to make it easy for you, we sampled some of the best mulching lawnmowers. Take a look.

● Honda HRX537VY Rotary Mower

While Honda mowers are quite costly, they are tested and proven to work efficiently. With Honda mulching lawnmower model HRX537VY, you get more power in a machine that utilizes petrol for propulsion. It is strong hence durable, not to mention ergonomic fittings that make it one of the handiest mowers in the market. Whether you would like to mow at a high or low speed, Honda HRX537VY features a smart drive system that makes it possible. All over the world, it enjoys a good reputation with most people giving it a nod of approval. Some of the most talked-about features in the HRX series are their quiet operation, mileage, engine power, strong cutting decks, 7 years warranty, and reliability.

What Is A Mulching Lawnmower? The Complete Guide 5

● Toro 29732 Self-Propelled Recycler Mower with Steel Deck

First off, you should note that steel decks offer more durability and stability. It is what you get with Toro 29732 mulching mower. It is a walk-behind mower, ideal for small backyards. Moreover, three cutting modes namely mulching, side discharging and collection mean it is a highly convertible/versatile mower.

 A grass cutting width of 53cm is good enough for a day’s work, not to mention its adjustable turf-cutting conditions. For example, you can set the cutting height 95mm or 32cm. The three cutting modes help eliminate clogging of grass clippings under the deck. With an engine rating of 163cc (Briggs&Stratton 655 series), a four-stroke cycle is good enough for medium-sized lawns.  It is lightweight, weighing only 30kgs, hence highly mobile.

What Is A Mulching Lawnmower? The Complete Guide 6

● Husqvarna Mulching Mower-LB553Se

If you love Husqvarna, the company’s wide-range of homesteading machines will never disappoint. For the love of lawn mowing, we settled on Husqvarna LB553Se, a self-propelled mulching mower that delivers excellent performance over an extended period. It saves time and environment, thanks to its 53cm aluminum cutting deck made of BioClip.

Husqvarna LB553Se ergonomic features an ergonomic design hence comfortable and easy to operate, not to mention its adjustable grass cutting level. An engine capacity of 160cc model GCV160 by Honda means you get more power and a steady power with this mower. Because it is lightweight at only 36.7kgs, you should excellent traction on the lawn. It has aluminum wheels that offer extra durability and excellent performance on the go.

With Husqvarna’s range of mowers, you should also expect low-vibration/quiet operation. Our interaction with Husqvarna LB553Se further revealed that it has double ball bearings that ensure smooth rolling of wheels on lawns. Tires on this machine have high-grip tread and most importantly, replaceable.

What Is A Mulching Lawnmower? The Complete Guide 7

Final Thoughts

In the end, everyone deserves a pat on the back for buying the best mulching mower. However, that should only come after understanding how these machines with 3-in-1 blade action work. Whether you are an addict of Husqvarna or Honda, the benefits of grass recycling mowers are replicated across the board. Also taking into consideration tips for choosing the best machine for the money, this post wouldn’t have come at a better time than now. Who would reject a mower than leaves no trace of grass clippings on the lawn? Well, our three picks in this post meet an efficiency threshold you need to do a good job.