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A big part of achieving a nice looking lawn is to choose the right lawn mowing technique. Among popular methods are mulching and side discharge, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.

Understanding the differences between these two techniques is essential for homeowners and gardeners seeking to make the best choice for their landscaping needs.

Differences between Mulching and Side Discharge

Mulching and side discharge are two common lawn mowing techniques used when operating a lawn mower. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on your lawn’s specific needs and your personal preferences.


Mulching involves cutting grass clippings into fine pieces and leaving them on the lawn as a natural fertilizer. This is done using a mulching mower which has an enclosed deck to keep clippings inside while they are chopped up.

The key benefits of mulching include:

  • Retaining moisture in the soil, reducing the need for watering
  • Preventing weed growth, saving time and money on weed control

With that being said, mulching might not be suitable for all lawns, particularly if the grass is very long or damp. In these cases side discharge may provide a better cut quality.

Side Discharge

Side discharge mowers work by ejecting grass clippings through an opening on the side, often with a chute attached.

This method also has several advantages:

  • Provides the highest quality cut and works faster than mulching mowers
  • Works better on long or damp grass, as clippings are expelled quickly
  • The user can mow at a faster pace, due to less power being used for mulching or bagging

It’s important to note that some mowers can be easily converted from side discharge to mulching (and vice versa) with a restrictor plate or an operator-controlled discharge chute.

Benefits of Lawn Mower Mulching

Mulching as a lawn mowing technique offers various benefits for your lawn’s health and appearance. One of the main advantages is that it helps to return nutrients to the soil. As grass clippings decompose, they release valuable nutrients that boost the soil’s fertility. This process promotes healthier grass growth and reduces the need for additional fertilizers.

Another benefit of mulching is its ability to retain soil moisture. By covering the soil surface with grass clippings, it helps to slow down evaporation, ensuring that the soil remains adequately hydrated. This can be particularly helpful in regions with hot or dry climates, where water conservation is essential.

Weed control is another advantage associated with mulching. When grass clippings are spread evenly across the lawn, they form a barrier that helps prevent sunlight from reaching weed seeds, inhibiting their germination. This results in reduced weed growth, which in turn saves time and effort spent on weed control measures.

Benefits of Side Discharge

Side discharge mowers have several benefits that make them a popular choice among homeowners. One advantage is their ability to handle taller grass and dense vegetation more efficiently compared to mulching mowers. The powerful discharge mechanism of these mowers quickly cuts and ejects grass clippings from the side, preventing the buildup that slows down mowers in challenging conditions.

Another benefit is the reduction in mowing time for larger lawns. Side discharge mowers often have wider cutting decks and faster ground speeds, allowing users to cover more ground in less time. This feature is especially beneficial for those with extensive lawns, making the side discharge mowing process more time-efficient.

Choosing the Right Mowing Technique for your Lawn

Choosing the right mowing technique for your lawn depends on the size of the lawn, the height of the grass, and seasonal conditions.

1. Lawn Size and Terrain

When deciding between mulching and side discharge, the size of your lawn and the terrain should be considered. For those with large yards, side discharge mowers are preferred since they work faster and do not require emptying a bag every few minutes. Mulching mowers, on the other hand, are more efficient for lawns with obstacles or uneven terrain, such as flower beds, as they can help prevent the spread of clippings and seeds.

2. Grass Height and Type

Another factor to consider is the grass height and type in your lawn. It is recommended to use a side discharge mower when dealing with tall or wet grass as it can quickly remove clippings without clumping. This will leave a good quality cut without damaging the lawn. On the other hand, mulching is suitable for shorter grass, as it helps retain moisture in the soil and also prevents weed growth, saving time and effort on weed control.

3. Seasonal Considerations

Lastly, the seasonal conditions of your lawn play a vital role in deciding between mulching and side discharge. Mowing the lawn in hot weather or in areas with water restrictions, mulching can be beneficial as it helps maintain moisture in the soil and reduces the need for watering. Side discharge mowing, on the other hand, may be more suitable during wet seasons or when grass growth is abundant, as it can efficiently disperse clippings, preventing clumps that may cause brown spots in the lawn.

Should I Mulch or Discharge Grass Clippings?

It’s best to discharge grass clippings when the grass is tall or wet, as this reduces pressure on the lawn mower compared to mulching. On the other hand, mulching is more suitable when you mow the lawn regularly, as it not only gives the grass a neater appearance, but also aids in retaining moisture in the soil.

Can I use mulching blades with side discharge?

Yes, it is possible to use mulching blades with side discharge on a lawn mower. But it can be but it can be worth noticing that the effectiveness of this combination varies depending on the blade design and mower type. Mulching blades are designed to cut grass clippings into fine pieces that can be easily absorbed back into the soil, promoting a healthier and more attractive lawn.

When using mulching blades with side discharge, some standard mulching blades may produce less air circulation, as they tend to push down on the grass rather than lifting it up. This can result in clippings not being discharged as effectively, leading to a messier appearance on the lawn.

In situations like this, it’s better to opt for blade models such as Copperhead and Gator, which compensate for reduced air circulation with their design.

Is Side Discharge Better Than Mulching?

Side discharge is better than mulching when the grass is long or thick, as it immediately discharges the grass clippings. In contrast, mulching mowers retain the grass inside the deck, which can exert additional pressure on the lawn mower engine when there’s too much grass to cut..