There are a lot of different lawn mower blades available today, which can make choosing the right one a bit of a challenge. With all the numerous designs and specific claims that lawn mower blades make, how do you choose which is the right fit for you? So, if you are trying to decide between Gator blades vs. regular blades, then let me help you figure out which will work best on your lawn mower. Let’s take a look.
What are Gator Blades?
A Gator blade is a lot more effective at shredding grass and anything else it passes over than a regular mulching blade. This blade type has been available for the past 20 years and is becoming the go-to choice for many professional yard guys.
Gator blades will save you from bagging clippings and leave the lawn looking well-cut and tidy. The Gator blade is easily spotted by alligator-like teeth on the top side of the blade. They’re kind of hard to miss. These top teeth really go to work on the grass clippings in the cutting deck and shred them into tiny pieces.
An Overview of Regular Blades
A regular blade, on the other hand, is an old design that works best in a bagging-type situation. The blade has great lift ability and can produce a lot of airflow. This means the blade can really shoot either into a collection bag or out of the chute, say, like a side discharge.
This is achieved by the particular curve the blade has. The more the curve, the more the airflow. The blade is twisted and acts kind of like a blade on a fan.
Gator Blades vs. Regular Blades: What’s the Difference?
The two main differences between Gator blades vs. regular blades are how they create air flow and shred the clippings. These two blades will both cut your lawn great, but they will respond differently when it comes to clippings.
As I mentioned before, the Gator blade will really chop up the clippings, but they won’t create much airflow. On the other hand, the regular blade will do the opposite by creating great airflow but doing very little mulching. So, you’ll have to decide if you want to mulch or bag your clippings. This decision alone will help you choose which is the right lawn mower blade for you.
Pros of Gator Blades
So, if you are thinking about getting yourself a Gator blade, then let me tell you a few of the pros that make them stand out from regular blades. Let’s have a look.
Better Mulching of the Grass
The real reason to get a Gator blade is because of its mulching ability. If bagging isn’t your thing, then Gator blades will mulch the clipping to such a small size that you’re not even going to notice them on your lawn.
So, if you don’t want to bag, or your lawn mower doesn’t have the option like a lawn tractor or a zero-turn lawn mower, then the Gator blade will mulch the clipping small enough that bagging isn’t necessary.
Better Shredding of Leaves
Ok, so you might be asking, why don’t you just get a mulching blade? Well, a Gator blade is technically a shredding blade. Or at least that’s what the Fisher Barton patent states anyway. What this means is that the blade has the ability to shred as well as mulch.
What’s shredding? Well, it’s a step up from mulching. Imagine that you have leaves and twigs on your lawn, say in the fall. This type of material is much tougher than plain old grass clippings. So, not only will a Gator blade mulch grass, but it will also shred the bigger material. Bye-bye, fall leaves. No more rakes and trash bags.
Keeping Your Waste Onsite
This one should be at the top of the list for a lot of people, especially if your local city doesn’t accept garden waste. Removing garden waste over the recent years has started to be frowned upon more and more. So this tends to mean you need to find a way to discard your grass clippings.
Instead of bagging your clippings and placing them in a compost pile, the Gator blade does away with the need.
Adding Nutrients to the Lawn
Now that you can mulch your grass clippings, you get the added bonus of additional nutrients to your lawn. Typically once grass clippings decompose, they provide 4% nitrogen, 2% potassium, and 1% phosphorus.
This all depends on the specific grass type, but this is about the average nutrient value that your grass will benefit from. If you are mulching leaves as well, then you’ll also get the added nutrients when they decompose.
Cons of Gator Blades
So far, Gator blades are sounding pretty good. But there are a few notable drawbacks as well. Let’s take a look at some of the cons of Gator blades.
Gator Blades Need a Lot of Power
One thing that a Gator blade label doesn’t warn you about is the amount of power they need to be efficient and not damage your lawn mower. So, due to the fact that the blade is in contact with the grass clippings for much longer, there is a lot more strain on the engine.
Now, if you have a big powerful lawn mower, then this isn’t going to be a problem. But if you want to attach a Gator blade to your small push mower, then you could have an issue. Your lawn mower may not have enough power and may get bogged down.
So this is going to lead to a number of issues like engine wear and overheating.
Your Lawn Mower Needs a Closed Cutting Deck
If you take a look at a cutting deck of a zero-turn mower or a lawn tractor, then you may notice that a lot of them are closed. This means they are not designed to have bags or chutes. This is perfect for Gator blades as they need to keep the grass inside the deck as long as possible to maximize mulching and shredding.
But if your lawn mower has a continually open chute or discharge, then Gator blades are not going to work as well as they could. This means you’ll need to make a modification to your cutting deck.
Now for big lawn mowers, this isn’t much of a problem as most manufacturers make mulching kits to enclose the cutting deck. But lawn mowers like push or walk-behind don’t usually have this option available. So, if this is the case with your lawn mower, then you’re not going to get the best out of Gator blades.
Mowing can Take Longer
With all the extra work that a Gator blade has to do, you are going to have to go a bit slower. This is so you give the blades enough time to finely chop the clippings. If you run over your lawn as fast as your lawn mower will go, then you’re probably going to find that the Gator blades leave behind a trail of long grass blades and full leaves.
More Frequent Sharpening
Gator blades are usually made of a much thicker steel than that of a regular blade, but this doesn’t mean they stay sharp for longer. In fact, with all the additional contact with the grass clippings, they get dull even quicker. So, be prepared to sharpen your Gator blades more frequently than you would sharpen a regular lawn mower blade.
Pros of Regular Blades
That’s enough about Gator blades. Now let’s take a look at regular blades and see why most bagging lawn mowers come with one preinstalled.
A Lot of Airflow
One thing that you will quickly notice about regular lawn mower blades is the amount of airflow they can create. If you are using a lawn mower with a bagger or a side chute, then you want as much airflow as possible to shoot the grass deep into the collection bag or out of the side chute. So, if you have one of these lawn mowers, then it will probably have a regular blade installed by the manufacturer.
One benefit of having a lot of airflow is the fact that the lawn mower will be less likely to clog. This is especially great when it comes to damp grass. The twist in the blade pushes the air and creates air movement that really throws the grass down the chute. You’re not going to get this will a Gator blade.
Due to the size of the twist in the blade to create the airflow, the blade also creates a lot of lift. This means the blade sucks the grass from the soil bed prior to cutting. As a result, the grass gets a very even cut.
Handle Longer Grass
During the growing season, especially after I have fertilized, my grass can grow fast, really fast. So, a set of regular blades can come in really handy. Because the regular blade throws out the clippings as quickly as it can, it means the cutting deck doesn’t get overloaded. So, long grass isn’t a problem.
Work on Pretty Much Every Lawn Mower
Now, if you don’t want to make any mulching modifications to your lawn mower or you have a lawn mower that doesn’t have a mulching option, then you won’t go wrong with a regular lawn mower blade.
These blades are going to work on any lawn mower just as long as you make sure you have the right type of blade to fit your specific mower. By this, I mean the right size and the right attachment method. After all, lawn mower blades are not universal. So, if you are worried that the Gator blades won’t work on your mower, then you’ll be just fine with a regular blade.
Cons of Regular Blades
Alright, so we’ve covered all the good stuff. What are the cons of regular lawn mower blades? Let’s take a look.
Plain and simple, regular lawn mower blades can’t mulch. So, if you have lost your bag, your compost is full, or the city stopped taking clippings, and mulching the clipping is your only option, then forget regular blades.
Regular blades just cut and then shoot out clippings. This is ok if you have tall grass in a field but not so great for a lawn that you want to look its best. Basically, if you cut off 4 inches of grass growth, then you’re going to have 4-inch clippings on the lawn.
They Can Make too Much Airflow
Airflow has its upsides and it has its downsides. The downside of regular blades is that during the dry months, or if you have sandy dirt, then your lawn mower is going to kick up a lot of dust and dirt.
If you have ever seen a helicopter land on a field, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. The huge amount of airflow the blade creates to shoot the grass through the chute or into the bag, unfortunately, sucks up a lot of dirt at the same time.
My Recommendations for When to Use Gator Blades vs. Regular Blades
Now that we have gone through all the pros and cons of both regular blades vs. Gator blades, let’s take a look at a quick summary of my recommendations.
Gator Blades vs. Regular Blade Recommendations
|Good for Bagging
|Good for Side Chute
|Good for Long Grass
|Good for Leaves
|Kick Up Dirt
|Requires Extra Sharpening