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View Full Version : Why Mulching Mowers Are Better


PlantscapeSolutions
09-21-2010, 01:34 PM
I would say as many as nine out of ten companies don't run mulching mowers. I realize on large commercial properties the contracts are bid to death so getting done quickly is a must. Mulching can slow you down too much and hurt your profit margin. On crappy properties blowing the over grown stuff out the side is a must as well so you don't bog the mower and clog up the deck.

But for those of us that won't set foot on a crappy property and do only nice irrigated properties mulching is the way to go. All an open chute does is end up blowing crap in the flower beds and increase your cleanup time. Or you waste time trying to mowing the entire yard so the chute faces away from the beds.

Eventually you find yourself mowing a confined strip of grass where you have no choice but to do a drive by on the beds and hose them down with grass clippings. I don't care how good you are at blowing you can't get 100% of the grass out. Over time the buildup of grass in the beds gets worse and worse. Plus your wasting time trying to blow out a mess that didn't need to happen in the first place.

The drawback of mulching is that tall grass is more of a challenge for the mowers. Tall grass can lead to Mohawks and a double cut occasionally. But 90% of the time the mulching mower will save you time on the blowing required.

The other huge befit of mulching is that the grass is cut up to a fraction the size of a mowers that ejects the grass. The much smaller particles of grass decompose much quicker and the mower does a better job of forcing the clipping down to the soil level. Mulching mowers do a much better job of minimizing the buildup of clippings in the yard because the smaller clippings decompose more quickly.

On St. Augustine properties keeping the decaying thatch level to a minimum is a must. Excess thatch can lead to an increased chance of having an issue with lawn fungus. The thatch can hold water and moisture on top of the soil where you don't want it to be.

gene gls
09-21-2010, 09:15 PM
I would say as many as nine out of ten companies don't run mulching mowers. I realize on large commercial properties the contracts are bid to death so getting done quickly is a must. Mulching can slow you down too much and hurt your profit margin. On crappy properties blowing the over grown stuff out the side is a must as well so you don't bog the mower and clog up the deck.

But for those of us that won't set foot on a crappy property and do only nice irrigated properties mulching is the way to go. All an open chute does is end up blowing crap in the flower beds and increase your cleanup time. Or you waste time trying to mowing the entire yard so the chute faces away from the beds.

Eventually you find yourself mowing a confined strip of grass where you have no choice but to do a drive by on the beds and hose them down with grass clippings. I don't care how good you are at blowing you can't get 100% of the grass out. Over time the buildup of grass in the beds gets worse and worse. Plus your wasting time trying to blow out a mess that didn't need to happen in the first place.

The drawback of mulching is that tall grass is more of a challenge for the mowers. Tall grass can lead to Mohawks and a double cut occasionally. But 90% of the time the mulching mower will save you time on the blowing required.

The other huge befit of mulching is that the grass is cut up to a fraction the size of a mowers that ejects the grass. The much smaller particles of grass decompose much quicker and the mower does a better job of forcing the clipping down to the soil level. Mulching mowers do a much better job of minimizing the buildup of clippings in the yard because the smaller clippings decompose more quickly.

On St. Augustine properties keeping the decaying thatch level to a minimum is a must. Excess thatch can lead to an increased chance of having an issue with lawn fungus. The thatch can hold water and moisture on top of the soil where you don't want it to be.

As long as you are happy with your mower thats what counts the most. Just don't move to my area with your mulcher.

georgiagrass
09-22-2010, 12:20 AM
We mulch or catch. Wouldn't dream of side discharge mowing. How ugly is that?

santafe
09-22-2010, 12:24 AM
I have been considering a mulching deck. but I don't want to be slowed down when I don't have to be. Would a cover thing-a-ma-bob over the chute that moves up and down as needed do the trick for blowing into mulch beds.:confused:

Swampy
09-22-2010, 03:48 AM
Catching the clippings is robbing the grass from free nutrients.

Up here in the northern states I don't have to much of a problem of clippings laying on top of the grass to much. I may spend maybe a few extra minutes double cutting a small area, though I don't double cut the entire yard either.

Think of this also if your cutting and you get excessive clippings. Maybe either you should raise your cutting height as your breaking the "1/3 Law" or increase the number of cuttings for the property.

Runner
09-22-2010, 04:50 AM
Here in the north, mulching just doesn't work...It's as plain and simple as that. The whole concept isn't everything it's cracked up to be. For Joe homeowner, who can get out on his lawn every 3 days during the growing season, fine. But even then, the conditions have to be just right; absolutely no moisture on the grass, and no overgrowth in ratio to the thickness. When you're in every 5 to 7 days,...forget it. When you grow grass as thick as I do, it's bad enough with side discharge. You can be cutting 3/4 to 1 inch off a 4 inch lawn, and the discharge chute is going to be full. A mulching deck - of ANY type, wouldn't stand a chance...and that's in perfect conditions. As far as grass in the beds and stuff,..with experience, skill, and care, there is absolutely no reason for this to happen. Yes,..a few clippings get on the hard surfaces, and yes, a few may even drift into some bed areas...but not enough to be noticeable or to accumulate. Blowing clippings toward beds can ALWAYS be avoided. For narrow areas however, we vacuum - from the word get go.

waters lawn care
09-22-2010, 08:31 AM
I always run mulching blades for normal discharge and mulching.When needed just cover/blank off discharge works great.

PlantscapeSolutions
09-22-2010, 09:40 AM
I have been considering a mulching deck. but I don't want to be slowed down when I don't have to be. Would a cover thing-a-ma-bob over the chute that moves up and down as needed do the trick for blowing into mulch beds.:confused:

I'm not sure how good they work but there are some companies that adjustable mulching plates that can be used open or closed. I suspect a trickle of grass may come out of the non-factory mulching plates.

txgrassguy
09-22-2010, 10:05 AM
Once again disingenuous advice which should be taken at little or no value.

A large amount of considerations must be considered when determining the merits, or lack thereof, regarding mulching. Simply saying mulching is better is like saying my mower is better than yours = meaningless.

Soil conditions, turf type, climate, irrigation and cultural practices - all have to be considered when determining to mulch verse side discharge verse bagging. The idea that mulching returns nutrients to the soil and benefits the turf is highly site specific and is highly dependent upon a wide varieties of site conditions.

All of this said, on the sites I have maintained after almost twenty years as a Turfgrass Agronomist I observe an increase in disease and insect pressure when these sites are mulched rather than either bagging or side discharging, particularly on some C3 turf species and on all C4 turf species due to the conditions present at these sites.

So take the original poster's comments with a very small grain of salt and understand the prevalent conditions at the sites you maintain then operate accordingly.

Mark Oomkes
09-22-2010, 10:16 AM
Here in the north, mulching just doesn't work...It's as plain and simple as that. The whole concept isn't everything it's cracked up to be. For Joe homeowner, who can get out on his lawn every 3 days during the growing season, fine. But even then, the conditions have to be just right; absolutely no moisture on the grass, and no overgrowth in ratio to the thickness. When you're in every 5 to 7 days,...forget it. When you grow grass as thick as I do, it's bad enough with side discharge. You can be cutting 3/4 to 1 inch off a 4 inch lawn, and the discharge chute is going to be full. A mulching deck - of ANY type, wouldn't stand a chance...and that's in perfect conditions. As far as grass in the beds and stuff,..with experience, skill, and care, there is absolutely no reason for this to happen. Yes,..a few clippings get on the hard surfaces, and yes, a few may even drift into some bed areas...but not enough to be noticeable or to accumulate. Blowing clippings toward beds can ALWAYS be avoided. For narrow areas however, we vacuum - from the word get go.

Hey, another pro from the north who gets it.

Have quite a few competitors that use mulching decks exclusively. They end up wasting a LOT of time blowing out clumps, cleaning up drives and walks.

I've tried them before and it just doesn't work for us. Under perfect conditions, sure, but that happens how often?

Once again disingenuous advice which should be taken at little or no value.

This is like his second thread telling us how wonderful he is, totally ignoring reality for many others. Glad to see someone else is catching on.

A large amount of considerations must be considered when determining the merits, or lack thereof, regarding mulching. Simply saying mulching is better is like saying my mower is better than yours = meaningless.

But, but, but it is!

Just like bagged mulch is the ONLY way to mulch.

Soil conditions, turf type, climate, irrigation and cultural practices - all have to be considered when determining to mulch verse side discharge verse bagging. The idea that mulching returns nutrients to the soil and benefits the turf is highly site specific and is highly dependent upon a wide varieties of site conditions.

All of this said, on the sites I have maintained after almost twenty years as a Turfgrass Agronomist I observe an increase in disease and insect pressure when these sites are mulched rather than either bagging or side discharging, particularly on some C3 turf species and on all C4 turf species due to the conditions present at these sites.

So take the original poster's comments with a very small grain of salt and understand the prevalent conditions at the sites you maintain then operate accordingly.

Not sure how so many of us have made it in business so long without Plantscapes advice and wisdom on the only way to do things.

grassman177
09-22-2010, 10:21 AM
yeah, try mulching here and you will be out of business quick, the grass is way too long and lush and thick to think about it, a mulching mower would never get through it, and it would look terrible. bluegrass and fescue cant be mulched well unless you are cutting it twice per week or more and no one here lets you come that often, too much money.

so your opinions are great, but dont rien true for everyone, sorry.

i do however thin k mulching IS better, just completely non practical in a market in the midwest, at least here. NO ONE does it here at all

MarcSmith
09-22-2010, 10:41 AM
in central florida I never mulched the grass. always Side discharge. nice props as well on the areas where the beds were close i had an OCDC so I could block the chute drive on by and not throw grass into the beds....when i worked for disney, rarely did they ever catch the clippings, more often was side or rear discharg(bermuda/bahia)

ed2hess
09-22-2010, 10:31 PM
I don't see many run here with output closed but they could. We run all our units with output closed and have for many years. Grass has been growing pretty fast since we got 11" of rain two weeks ago and we just raise the mower. The Scag units are mowing in the next to last row. As it dries out we will lower it slowly and by spring we will be back down to 3". It just makes things a lot easier on small properties and is a little safer around people and cars and homes etc.

PlantscapeSolutions
09-23-2010, 03:16 PM
Once again disingenuous advice which should be taken at little or no value.

A large amount of considerations must be considered when determining the merits, or lack thereof, regarding mulching. Simply saying mulching is better is like saying my mower is better than yours = meaningless.

Soil conditions, turf type, climate, irrigation and cultural practices - all have to be considered when determining to mulch verse side discharge verse bagging. The idea that mulching returns nutrients to the soil and benefits the turf is highly site specific and is highly dependent upon a wide varieties of site conditions.

All of this said, on the sites I have maintained after almost twenty years as a Turfgrass Agronomist I observe an increase in disease and insect pressure when these sites are mulched rather than either bagging or side discharging, particularly on some C3 turf species and on all C4 turf species due to the conditions present at these sites.

So take the original poster's comments with a very small grain of salt and understand the prevalent conditions at the sites you maintain then operate accordingly.

Boy, what an opening line on your reply. Are you sure you’re not just a Turfrass?

Trying to say that mulching can be detrimental compared side discharging in any shape, form, or way is crazy. It's the same f'n grass. The main difference is you have less grass suspended in the turf. The mulching mower simply does a better job of forcing the grass down to the soil. The mulching process also cuts the grass up into smaller particles. Theoretically the smaller cut particles have more surface area exposed, which allows the beneficial soil microorganisms to consume the grass particles faster.

Bagging depletes the soil of nutrients as well. This is not my opinion it is fact. Since your here in Texas you can check with any of your county agricultural extension agents or just check out some of the turfgrass studies conducted by Williamson Counties turf studies facility. Another good source for info is A&M. The professionals who actually have conducted studies on turf grass will not support your skewed opinions.

I would really like to hear what type of turf or insect issues you are trying to blame on a mulching mower. I would also like to hear your hypothesis as to why you think mulching mowers could cause any sort of negative issues. Please feel free to try to find any case studies that will support your point of view. :hammerhead:

PlantscapeSolutions
09-23-2010, 03:26 PM
I don't see many run here with output closed but they could. We run all our units with output closed and have for many years. Grass has been growing pretty fast since we got 11" of rain two weeks ago and we just raise the mower. The Scag units are mowing in the next to last row. As it dries out we will lower it slowly and by spring we will be back down to 3". It just makes things a lot easier on small properties and is a little safer around people and cars and homes etc.

Glad to hear from someone else in the Austin market that cares about quality and uses their cabeza. Too many Perfect Lawn (total oxymoron) type companies around here that do total crap work. Those two brothers who run Perfect Lawns must be masters of marketing to stay in business. I walked away with six Perfect Lawns accounts just in one small neighborhood.

MarcSmith
09-23-2010, 03:26 PM
IMO productivity is the big detriment to mulching mowers...if conditions are not perfect...its a long slow day...

I will also say that a mulching mowers blades, since they are cutting more grass will dull quicker leaving a torn blade of grass rather than a nice clean cut, which can lead to disease issues...

CutterCutter
09-23-2010, 10:57 PM
The only time I can mulch is early in the spring or when leaves are on the ground. In other words when grass is thin.

During the normal growing season mulching is impossible. Maybe if you mowed every other day but that's out of the question so mulching is a non starter.

A little seriousness please.

txgrassguy
09-24-2010, 11:30 AM
Well, I don't know what happened to my reply so I'll try again to briefly assuage your anguish and immaturity.

Turf essentially requires three primary conditions for growth:
1. Sunlight, 2. Irrigation in some form, and 3. Sustainable microbial activity

With me so far?

When taking into consideration site specific conditions, which in my a.o. is heavy clay based soils, mulching verse side discharge and particularly when considering the merits of bagging - adds to the accumulation of undecomposed organic matter observed at the soil to crown interface.

This accumulation markedly impedes sunlight, infiltration and causes excessive carbon dioxide build up in the soil which in turn massively reduces microbial population levels. The easiest way I can explain this is stick your head under a blanket and continue to breathe. Notice how you become uncomfortable relatively quickly and have to surface for air containing less CO2?

This is what happens with the microbes when subjected to toxic levels of CO2 but they can't surface and breathe so they decline in population levels. This is why turf, when emerging from dormancy looks real lush then suddenly begins to decline. Obviously I am temporizing my explanation but given no exterior stressors like kids tearing up the turf or sudden climatic shifts, most if not all turf problems can be directly traced to inadequate microbial population levels.

Mulching host turf, regardless of C3 or C4, on clay based soils causes microbial levels to decrease which in turn causes the pathogen balance to be upset. The clay based soil has insufficient exchange sites to utilize excess nutrients and cannot expel the CO2 quickly enough which is why on particularly Panicoideae family of turfgrass Rhyzoctonia spp. of diseases as well as economically sufficient levels of insect pressure are noticed - and why this turf has such a bad rap.

When one combines aggressive spring tine raking, hollow core aerification and yield containment into a maintenance program the microbial levels remain at a sustainable, healthy level. Subsequently, yield evaluation has shown clippings which have a significantly higher nutrient content than from similar host turf not maintained to the same degree - all the while not causing the need for fungicide or pest apps and even decrease (in my case by 300%) the need to add synthetic fertilizer.
Why? Because the microbial population is more efficient through the nitrification cycle because sunlight, irrigation and the release of CO2 as a result of respiration are not impeded by an accumulation of undecomposed organic matter.

Now regarding your comment upon extension agents - I have yet, in over twenty years as an Agronomist to encounter one that has a soil probe, emoscope and thermometer when on site to diagnose a problem. These people are at best generalists rather than specifically orientated towards Turfgrass Agronomy and their recommendations are at best general as well.

I have worked quite closely with A&M out in College Station. I actually had to drive out there to get them to correctly process samples sent for evaluation and to provide site specific data necessary for their lab to correctly set the parameters for the evaluation.

My experiences are the result of empirical processes I implemented and the results achieved are specific to my maintenance program while addressing the conditions present.

Which is why, in my first reply, I stated your advice was disingenuous at best as you fail, repeatedly, to address specific conditions present at a specific site. So, your advice is generalized and as such falls under the category of being disingenuous.

Mark Oomkes
09-24-2010, 12:39 PM
Well, I don't know what happened to my reply so I'll try again to briefly assuage your anguish and immaturity.

Turf essentially requires three primary conditions for growth:
1. Sunlight, 2. Irrigation in some form, and 3. Sustainable microbial activity

With me so far?

When taking into consideration site specific conditions, which in my a.o. is heavy clay based soils, mulching verse side discharge and particularly when considering the merits of bagging - adds to the accumulation of undecomposed organic matter observed at the soil to crown interface.

This accumulation markedly impedes sunlight, infiltration and causes excessive carbon dioxide build up in the soil which in turn massively reduces microbial population levels. The easiest way I can explain this is stick your head under a blanket and continue to breathe. Notice how you become uncomfortable relatively quickly and have to surface for air containing less CO2?

This is what happens with the microbes when subjected to toxic levels of CO2 but they can't surface and breathe so they decline in population levels. This is why turf, when emerging from dormancy looks real lush then suddenly begins to decline. Obviously I am temporizing my explanation but given no exterior stressors like kids tearing up the turf or sudden climatic shifts, most if not all turf problems can be directly traced to inadequate microbial population levels.

Mulching host turf, regardless of C3 or C4, on clay based soils causes microbial levels to decrease which in turn causes the pathogen balance to be upset. The clay based soil has insufficient exchange sites to utilize excess nutrients and cannot expel the CO2 quickly enough which is why on particularly Panicoideae family of turfgrass Rhyzoctonia spp. of diseases as well as economically sufficient levels of insect pressure are noticed - and why this turf has such a bad rap.

When one combines aggressive spring tine raking, hollow core aerification and yield containment into a maintenance program the microbial levels remain at a sustainable, healthy level. Subsequently, yield evaluation has shown clippings which have a significantly higher nutrient content than from similar host turf not maintained to the same degree - all the while not causing the need for fungicide or pest apps and even decrease (in my case by 300%) the need to add synthetic fertilizer.
Why? Because the microbial population is more efficient through the nitrification cycle because sunlight, irrigation and the release of CO2 as a result of respiration are not impeded by an accumulation of undecomposed organic matter.

Now regarding your comment upon extension agents - I have yet, in over twenty years as an Agronomist to encounter one that has a soil probe, emoscope and thermometer when on site to diagnose a problem. These people are at best generalists rather than specifically orientated towards Turfgrass Agronomy and their recommendations are at best general as well.

I have worked quite closely with A&M out in College Station. I actually had to drive out there to get them to correctly process samples sent for evaluation and to provide site specific data necessary for their lab to correctly set the parameters for the evaluation.

My experiences are the result of empirical processes I implemented and the results achieved are specific to my maintenance program while addressing the conditions present.

Which is why, in my first reply, I stated your advice was disingenuous at best as you fail, repeatedly, to address specific conditions present at a specific site. So, your advice is generalized and as such falls under the category of being disingenuous.

And here we thought you were just a pretty face. :waving:

Very interesting, especially about the turf coming out of dormancy. Makes sense.

Now, about those overrated gassers and underrated oil burners.............