Magazine article Sunset

Mulching Mowers Are Coming Back

Magazine article Sunset

Mulching Mowers Are Coming Back

Article excerpt

WHEN MULCHING mowers were introduced 10 years ago, the market for them was soft. But now that landfills and garbage collection services have started refusing lawn clippings, mulching mowers are coming back with a vengeance.

That's good news. This second generation of mulching mowers is better than the first, and all the benefits remain: mowing is faster (no bag to empty), clippings contribute to the lawn's fertility, and yard waste is kept to a minimum.

WHAT MULCHING MOWERS DO, AND HOW THEY DO IT

Mulching mowers are made to chop grass into fine pieces that drop down into the mowed turf that remains. The result is a clean-looking lawn with no visible clippings. The clippings that drop into the turf dry out and quickly decompose.

Here's how mulching mowers do what they do. Instead of simply blowing clippings into a bag or out a side shoot, airflow keeps cut grass suspended under the mulching mower's higher-than-normal deck. As grass flies around under the deck, the mower's blade recuts the clippings as many as a dozen times, before they finally drop into the turf below.

Since deck and blade both determine a mower's airflow pattern, a generic replacement blade can reduce a mulching mower's efficiency. Stick with the original.

In the same way, you can't turn a conventional mower into a mulcher by simply replacing a standard blade with a mulching-style blade.

HOW MUCH POWER?

When the first generation of mulching mowers came out many were available with 3.5-or 4-horsepower engines. Users found them to be generally underpowered. Since mulchers cut each grass blade more than once, they need larger-than-normal engines.

When you shop, consider 4 horsepower to be the bare minimum for a push-style mulching mower, 5 horsepower the minimum for a self-propelled mower. You won't know how important this is until you find your new mulching mower bogging down or stalling in damp grass, where a conventional mower would keep cutting. …

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