Mulching or side discharge when mowing a lawn?

When you are mowing a customer’s lawn do you mulch the grass clippings or use your mower’s side discharge? That is a question asked on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum and I found the results to be very interesting.

One of our members wrote “I have noticed a lot of local lawn care folks are side discharging, which I had always done on my own yard, until I got the mulching kit.

Mulch or side discharge lawn mower

Mulch or side discharge lawn mower

What do you guys do, and why? I like mulching because I don’t have to worry about getting clippings into the customers landscaping / sidewalks and so on. I’m thinking however, about going back to side discharging with some gator blades ( have used them in the past and loved them), due to the increased deck maintenance I seem to see with mulching (especially bad right now as it rains so darn much it is impossible to wait till every yard is perfectly dry!)

What are your thoughts?”

Some of the responses to this question were “We only mulch for a number of reasons, a majority of the lawns water is in the grass you are cutting and the clippings act as great fertilizer for the lawn and if done properly you will have little if any thatch.”

Can you clarify what you mean by “doing it properly will not build thatch”? Do you mean just mowing on time, and not mulching when it is really tall, or how exactly do you prevent thatch buildup when mulching?

“There are a few things that we do and do not do that yields us excellent results.

  • We do not mow in the rain or mow wet grass.
  • We use Gator High Lift mulching blades, I am sure there are other brands, I have a lot of friends and clients using them and the results are bang on.
  • We keep our blades sharp, I bought a few sharpeners that attach to a cordless drill, it takes about 10 min tops to sharpen the three blades for example on the X500’s.
  • We mow weekly, if the grass is too long the results are not the greatest.
  • We alternate mowing direction and keep track of how the lawn was last mowed.

All of our equipment is designed for mulching, some will take a regular discharge mower, put a mulching blade on and expect mulching results, that is generally not what happens.”

Another member shared “I mulch all my lawns. I talk my new customers out of bagging for a couple reasons. First of all bagging wastes a lot of time and I would have to charge them considerably more. Secondly most experts will tell you that mulching is at least equivalent to 1 fertilization. I don’t sell my customers more than 4 applications of fertilization to begin with because in my opinion more than that is overkill especially if your mulching.”

Ultimately only one lawn care business owner went with using a side discharge mower. He said “I bag only. If you have crabgrass in your area, you most likely would do the same. Crabgrass is spread by clippings and seed, so unless my neighbors want a yard with nothing but crabgrass, I bag everything.”

These are some thoughts to consider when comparing using a side discharge mower versus a mulching mower. Feel free to join in on this discussion at the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

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