Discharge vs. Mulch

Vibe Ray

LawnSite Senior Member
Slidell, LA
I hear that some of you guys discharge instead of mulch? What are the advantages of discharging over mulching? I thought discharging didn't cut up grass as fine as mulching. So why discharge? Does grass have to be mulched or does discharging cut it up enough? Does double blade discharging cut up as fine as single blade mulching? Does double blade discharging cut up as fine as double blade mulching? Let me in on this discharging stuff!!! I've always mulched.

Eric ELM

Husband, Father, Friend, Angel
Chicago, IL USA
When you discharge, you can mow faster than when you mulch. With Double blades, it chops the clippings up so much smaller, that you don't see the clippings laying on top unless it is growing an inch a day like in the spring. Then I double cut each lawn that needs it and the clippings disappear.

The only time I mulch is in the fall or spring to chop up leaves better. I will close the OCDC if I'm going between mulched flower beds or by a mulched tree.

If you are mulching, the grass needs to be fairly dry to make it look good.

Southern Lawns

LawnSite Senior Member
I hardly ever discharge for a few reasons. Eventually it causes buildup, takes longer for it to break down. Mulching really cuts it fine. I use a double "Ninja" blade on my WB and it does a great job. The second reason is that most of my jobs are in well manicured lawns and people don't want clippings in the beds ( I know.......just face the shoot away from the beds..) Mulching works for me....:) Of course there are times when I have to discharge but I try to avoid it.
"The old foul dudes"


LawnSite Silver Member
Central CT
I have not discharged grass in over 4 years. Nor have I had to clean grass out of beds or off cars and buildings in 4 years.


LawnSite Silver Member
I have found that many people refer to "mulching" the lawns when actually they are discharging clippings while using the Gator Blades.

I am under the belief that unless you "add" a kit to the baffle system under the deck, or have a toro "recycler" you will not be MULCHING your lawn.

This season I will be trying the double blade theory to see how well it works on our machines. More often than not we have used a high-lift blade [when bagging was prohibited in the contract] and had better results dispersing the clippings than with gator blades during the spring and fall.

S-lawns said that it causes thatch. I believe this to be false. According to our local co-op ext. grass clippings DO NOT cause thatch build up!! They will ADD to an existing layer. If properties are not thatched every couple of seasons they will have more than the 3/4" layer we use as a guideline.

Clippings should braek down and decompose about every 10 days. The thatch layer [dead matted grass] increases when the micro-organisms in the soil cannot access the clippings to aid in the decomposition process.

We like to have a THIN layer of thatch because it not only adds resilience to the turf but it will help protect the root system during those hot and dry summer months.




LawnSite Gold Member
stanfield nc
Different grasses do more orless thatch.
I deal with fescue mostly.If its cut
right it doesnt seem to cause thatch problem.
As in a 8th or more build up.Lots of folk
dethatch when there is no thatch there.
They dont know that and its good for the
lawn as long as you dont tear it up to much.


LawnSite Senior Member
Northwest Ohio
The first two years in business I used a Toro Recycler and in the spring I could not mow very fast. Now I have a Walker with a SD deck and I love it. I can mow as fast it will go and go over it twice if need be and it looks like I bagged or mulched it. I doubt very much if I'll ever go back to mulching. Sidedischarge is much FASTER. I also put on a set of Gator Blades which also helps make the clippings smaller. I guess it's what you like or works for your application.
Good Luck,


LawnSite Senior Member
I use either the Exmark with the Micro-Mulch kit or the Toro Recycler to do all my mulching. This Spring, I'll be using the Exmark with the double-blades for the first time.

Kutnkru nailed in all on the head with his post. Mulching does not cause thatch buildup, from everything I have seen and read.

I'd like to give discharging a try this season, but I've got some real concerns about it in my area. A lot of places around here have close flower beds or the lawns are very small. Also, most of my lawns have a street strip and there wouldn't be anyway to control the discharge from going into either the street or back up on the other side of the sidewalk, which would cause more of a cleanup hassle. I can control that better with mulching. It really depends on your situation and locale, I'd think.

I've had to let go of a handful of customers this past season because they had the 'bagging or nothing' mentality. For a time I was offering both services because of the ease of transfer from one to the other with my former mower, the 21" Toro Recycler. With my Exmark, you either mulch with the baffle kit or you can bag or discharge w/o it. It takes a good bit of time to transfer from one to the other. Since the majority of my customers preferred the mulching I had to make a choice, but it's worked out well.

If you have large enough areas where you can discharge, I'd say give it a try. Mulching, however, seems to the appropriate in my case...



LawnSite Fanatic
Memphis, TN
It depends on where you live and what type of grass. I have double blades with gators and when I side discharge (even 2x) it still sits on top of the lawn very noticable. Bermuda is very thick and it traps on top everything. Zoysia is the same way. My lawns that are fescue I can get away with this. With my exmarks with mulching kits, you go over it once and unless I tell you, you will think it was bagged. No lie, Just fact. Just doesn't look as professional around here to side discharge. 95% of lawns here are bermuda.


LawnSite Senior Member
DISCHARGE it is much faster!

I discharge 99.9 percent of the time on commercial and residential, as do most LCO around here. Bagging is by no question the best manicured look possible, but those days are gone. The last holdout large company that concentrated on bagging at all high maintenance accounts around here, finally has begun to buy and use equipment with the intent to discharge. They had to to remain competetive. It is just not cost effective anymore. I still use a bagger on a 21" at a small highly visiable account mainly to pickup cig butts and trash.

I do use a 33" Troybuilt as well as a 21" Snapper to occasionally mulch in really tight small backyards and little islands as not to throw clippings. But, as soon as I hit open area, the mulch plug comes out and back to discharge. I do use, like most, the mulchers at fall for leaves when practical.

I learned years ago that the grass types do have some effect as well as the heights you are cutting along with the actual health of the lawn when trying to mulch or discharge. But, for the most part discharging gives great results. The key is mowing regularly and dispersal. Dispersal, which is most important, is tough to do with deflectors, which is why most LCO's rip the discharge deflector off. I keep mine on, but I use a rubber strap to keep it up at a more level height when there are no bystanders around. I can adjust it very easily as the conditions and safety aspects demand.

I also disagree that discharging causes thatch. I just have not seen it happening.

I do use gator blades, but not all the time, usually in the spring and fall. They do negatively affect the lift alittle bit. I usually use high lifts at all times during the year.

I have found that those people (residentials) that want bagging look have had bad experiences with side discharge when they mowed it themselves with a old K-mart 21" after letting it go for two weeks. I have changed several minds after allowing me to do it my way for a while. If they are still unhappy, I raise the price and mulch with the Troybuilt.

I might add that the Troybuilt does do a great job, and I know that the other manufacturers are producing better mulchers every year, but not equal to discharge, in my opinion at this time.