For many people, when you think about mowing your lawn, you associate this with a lawn mower with a grass box on the back, collecting clippings as you mow.
However, in the UK, mulching your grass, rather than collecting the clippings, is becoming increasingly popular.
In this article, we’ll explain what exactly mulching is, and why you might consider doing it.
What does mulching mean?
Mulching refers to turning your grass clippings into mulch as you mow. Rather than collecting the grass in a grass box, your mower returns clippings to the ground, to be used as compost.
However, mulching doesn’t just mean taking off the grass box. A proper mulching mower will cut the clippings repeatedly, sending them through the cutting deck multiple times to create a finer mulch.
Mulching mowers will also force the clippings down into the grass, and ensure an even distribution of your clippings. This is one of the main differences between mulching and side discharge. With a good mulching mower, your clippings are spread out more evenly, and are pushed directly into the soil.
Benefits of mulching grass
Here are some of the reasons why you might like to mulch your grass instead of bagging it.
1. Improve lawn health
Believe it or not, grass clippings actually have many nutrients that improve grass health. As it decomposes, cut grass releases nitrogen, making your soil more fertile.
Your clippings also contain many other essential nutrients that your grass needs to grow, such as potassium and phosphorus.
By mulching your grass, you’re reducing the need to use fertiliser or lawn feed to keep your grass healthy.
By mulching your grass clippings, you’re skipping what’s probably the most annoying part of mowing your lawn – the clean up!
Rather than having to tip out your grass box every so often, or raking up the clippings, you get to leave them in place.
This is why many people like mulching for the convenience and time savings it offers.
3. Retaining moisture
Grass clippings are actually made of around 85% water. By mulching them, you’re leaving a decent amount of moisture in place – moisture that your grass needs to grow.
As a result, mulching is often used when the weather is more dry, to avoid having to water the lawn as often as would normally be required.
4. Cost saving
If you’re about to buy a new lawn mower, and you’re unsure what you get, it’s important to know that mulching mowers can often be cheaper than mowers that allow you to collect grass clippings.
To collect cut grass, a mower will need to be bigger and bulkier, and will have to come with a grass box. As a result, they’re more complex to make, and can cost more.
However, this isn’t a cut-and-dry rule. Some mowers without a grass box won’t actually mulch your grass – they will just leave it in place, rather than making a fine mulch, and forcing it into the soil. Therefore, if you’re looking for a cheap mulching mower, you need to be careful to ensure that it’s actually capable of turning your lawn clippings into mulch.
Disadvantages of mulching grass
While mulching can be very beneficial for your lawn, there are a few downsides you should be aware of, as well as some situations where mulching is not the best idea.
1. Can spread weeds
If you have weed growth, you may spread these weeds more across your lawn by mulching.
When you have a weed outbreak, it’s best to collect your clippings for the time being until the problem can be treated.
2. Not ideal for long grass
If your grass is currently very long, and you cut it short, you’ll create a massive amount of clippings.
If you then mulch these clippings, they will likely clump up in patches on the surface of the grass, even if they’re mulched extremely fine. This, in turn, can block sunlight from reaching your lawn, causing it to become sparse in patches, or causing a moss outbreak.
You don’t want to add more than an inch of grass clippings as mulch, as an absolute maximum.
3. Can damage new lawns
New lawns need as much sunlight as possible, and are also more delicate than well-established lawns. This is why it’s advisable to avoid mulching when you first mow a new lawn. Instead, help your new lawn to flourish by feeding it the nutrients it needs directly, for example with lawn food.
4. Can exacerbate thatch problems
Thatch is a layer of old organic matter located at the base of your grass shoots.
Mulching does not generally cause thatch issues. However, it can make an existing thatch problem worse, because you’re adding more dead organic matter to the layer that already exists.
If the existing thatch is not decomposing for some reason, then you need to fix this issue before your lawn can take grass clippings.