You have two options when you mow your lawn. You can devote some more time to the task and rake up and bag all those lawn clippings, or you can let your mower take care of the clippings for you. A mulching mower chops the clippings as it goes along and breaks them down over the surface of your lawn. The mulching blade and mower deck are enclosed.
It might sound like the perfect lawn maintenance tool, but there are a few drawbacks to this equipment to go along with the benefits.
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The Benefits of Mulching
A mulching lawn mower isn't just about sparing you a little labor when you're dealing with lawn care. Mulch is a good thing for your healthy lawn. It forms a protective layer between below-ground roots and the air. It keeps your soil and everything that grows from it healthy when you spread it over the surface.
Mulch isn't made up of only grass cuttings and leaf clippings. Homeowners have been known to use plastic, rocks and wood chips for this purpose as well. But they can cost extra money, and an argument can be made that inorganic mulch can cause more problems than it solves.
The Pros of Mulch Mowers
The obvious advantages of using a mulching lawnmower to spread those clippings are that it saves time and spares you a good bit of work. Standard mowers collect the clippings in that attached box. You then have to cart the box to a compost pile or other location to get rid of them. A mulching mower can save you time, particularly if you have a large lawn. It can also spare you the effort of manual labor if that's not something you enjoy.
Your lawn will appreciate it as well. Grass clippings are loaded with nutrients that grass needs. You're returning those valuable nutrients to your lawn when you use a mulch mower. The mower can take care of mulching leaves and make use of them in the fall, too.
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The Cons of Mulch Mowers
Of course, all this assumes that your lawn was healthy and contaminant-free to start with. A mulch mower will also spread any pesticides or other chemicals you've used. Maybe you treated your flower bed recently, and it sits right at the edge of your lawn. Some of those chemicals have spread to the nearby grass blades. Your mulching mower will inhale that grass, chop it up and deliver it to other parts of your lawn.
The same goes for any weeds and worms in your lawn. They'll be chopped up and redistributed to grow and multiply elsewhere too.
You'll probably have to cut grass more often if you use a mulch mower. Your mower will create more mulch if you let your grass get too high, and this can be unsightly. It's also recommended that you don't use your mulch mower too soon after a heavy rain. It won't perform as well on wet grass.
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The Cost Comparison
Comparing the cost of a "regular" mower to a mulch mower begins with the type of mower you'd be using on your lawn otherwise. You could spend less than $60 if you're willing to manually push a reel mower around. A gas-powered mower will probably set you back more than $1,000 on average. The best mulching lawn mower can cost you more than $2,000.
You can devote time and labor to raking up and bagging all those grass clippings or you can let your mower take care of the clippings for you, but there are a few drawbacks to using this equipment.
But you'll probably save a little on your water bill. Mulching grass reduces the amount of water your lawn needs because it reduces the evaporation of existing moisture into the air. So you'll probably turn those sprinklers on less often.
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Alternatives to a Mulch Mower
Some rotary mowers are designed to operate without their mulch-catching box or bag. You can simply take the attachment off. This option would spew clippings as you go along, but you'll most likely end up wearing at least some of them unless the mower has a side discharge. A mulch mower pulverizes and disperses them directly to the ground.
You might also be able to save some money by simply buying a mulching attachment for your existing mower, depending on the model.
- Growing With Nature: What Is Mulching?
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Landscaping Tips
- Lawnsmith: Mulching Mowers
- Sears: Mower Showdown – Bagging vs. Mulching
- GreenPal: So Which Is Best Mulching vs. Bagging vs. Side Discharge
- LawnStarter: Pricing Guide – How Much Does a Lawn Mower Cost?