When you hear people talk about mulching grass, you hear all the good stuff mentioned. It feeds your lawn naturally, it reduces waste…hell, lots of mowers are marketed and sold based on its benefits. But what about the disadvantages of mulching grass? You don’t hear a whole lot about those and that’s precisely what we’re going to talk you through in this post.
A Few Reasons Why Mulching Can Be Bad for Your Lawn
If you’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about mulching, here are a few drawbacks for you to consider. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not staunch anti-mulchers here. We just think it’s important that you’re aware of things that can potentially go wrong. And besides, there are lots of other things you can do with grass clippings after mowing.
Mulching Can Be Very Messy
Whenever you see shots of a freshly mulched lawn in the marketing materials that lawn mower manufacturers produce, it’s picture-perfect. A lawn that even the Queen of England wouldn’t be disappointed to see out of the palace window. But rarely does the reality come anywhere close to that expectation. Mulching grass instead of bagging your clippings can be a messy affair, especially if the grass is slightly damp or you’re mulching tall grass. Those clippings will stick to your boots and you’ll end up trailing clippings all over your yard. And that’s not even taking into account the wind…If it’s windy your paths and patio area will look like they’ve become part of your lawn.
Increases Lawn Mower Maintenance
For most people, the less maintenance the better when it comes to their lawn mower. Depending on the type of mower you have, maintenance may well just be limited to an annual sharpening of the blade (with the exception of gas mowers, which require a few additional maintenance steps). But if you want to mulch your grass, you may well need to increase the frequency of your blade sharpening to 2 or 3 times per year. The reason being that mulch needs to be chopped extremely finely and to do that your mower blade needs to be nice and sharp every time you wheel the mower out onto your lawn.
You Need a More Powerful Mower
As we’ve just mentioned, for mulch to be beneficial to your lawn (and that’s really the whole reason you’re mulching in the first place, right?), it needs to be chopped up nice and fine. The problem comes when you try to use an underpowered mower to mulch. A cheap electric mower for example just doesn’t have the oomph needed to do the job right. This means you have to look at a mower with a more powerful engine (if gas) or motor (if electric). And that extra power will cost you more.
Mulching is Very Difficult If Grass is Damp
Why is mulching difficult to pull off in damp conditions? Well when mulching you’re aiming to coat the surface of your lawn in a layer of finely chopped grass clippings. That’s how the clippings will break down and pass important nutrients across the whole surface area of your lawn. But when conditions are damp, as you may well have experienced yourself at some point, clippings tend to clump together or get stuck on the underside of your mower. And this isn’t good because 1) clippings that form clumps will block out sunlight and likely lead to patches of your lawn dying, and 2) it’s a pain in the butt to clean the underside of a mower that’s caked in wet clippings.
It’ll Often Take You Much Longer to Mow
If you keep on top of your lawn maintenance, this disadvantage likely won’t apply to you. But for everyone else (and A LOT of people don’t mow as regularly as they should), mulching done right will often require longer mowing sessions. This is because you need to take off very little on each pass to mulch effectively. So if your grass is overgrown, you’ll have to make multiple passes over it all to bring it down to a respectable length.
Mulching Could Lead to Weeds Spreading
If you’ve got a lawn that also boasts dandelions, daisies, crabgrass or any of the other common lawn weeds, mulching could lead to further headaches. At least if you don’t remove the weeds first. You might have already asked yourself “Should I bag my grass clippings if I have weeds?” The answer is – yes! This is because when mulching your lawn, you’ll also be mulching those weeds and then you’ll be spreading weed spores around your whole lawn. And the last thing you want to do is encourage more weeds to grow. So before mulching, you really need to figure out how you can remove whatever weeds are currently calling your lawn “home”.
You Can’t Really Use Chemicals or Fertilizer to Help Your Lawn Grow
This may not be something you’ve heard before, but grass that has grown using chemical products and fertilizers doesn’t decompose the same way that grass that has been grown organically does, and can do more harm than good as it breaks down. So you really should let your lawn rest from these products for a period of time before you attempt to mulch your grass.
Disadvantages of Mulching Grass: A Quick Recap
- It’s messier than bagging your clippings (particularly when windy or wet)
- You will likely need to sharpen your blade more frequently
- Need a mower with enough power (which will likely cost more)
- Mowing the lawn will take longer if you don’t mow frequently
- Worse performance than bagging when clippings are damp
- Could increase weeds in your lawn
- Mulch might be damaging to your lawn if you’ve used synthetic fertilizers
Excellent overview! Just got a new 42inch rider and trying to decide if I mulch (old rider did this for years), bag (would need to spend hundreds more) or rack up the grass. Your article was very informative. THANKS.
My pathways were once level with my mulched lawn, which is now 50 mm higher than path. Is this due to mulching?
Hi Graham. I have a few thoughts on this. It is likely that your lawn has increased in height due to mulching. This can happen over time, especially in situations where additional fertilizer is added to the lawn, the soil is dense, and in rainy areas. However, it’s also important to note that all lawns will eventually increase in height somewhat if fertilizer, sand, lime, or any other substance is regularly added to them. Even overseeding each year could cause your lawn to “grow” as much as 10mm in a few years.
Paths can also sink over time depending on how they were created and what the soil is like underneath. This happens at a rate that is much slower than the natural buildup you might see in a well-cared-for lawn. Lawns can also raise or become uneven if you’ve ever had a large grub/mole infestation.
With only mowing and mulching, especially if you are also mulching leaves into your lawn, seeing a height difference of 50mm can happen after 7 to 10 years or so of excellent care. In order to combat this height issue, while continuing to mulch, you can dethatch your lawn every other year or more frequently. Adding pores to your lawn (by using a plug removal-type aeration method) is also a reliable way to keep the height of your lawn in check.
Hope this helps!
Richard Adair says
I mowed with a Deere SST16 and 42″ Freedom deck from 2002 thru 2018 and never had a problem. There are no good mulching decks made today for the homeowner. I now have a Z345R that will not mulch. I do not even try anymore.