Guide to Mulching Your Lawn

ID-100359584When taking care of a lawn, it’s easy to overlook the most readily available source for fertilizer and turf protection: the grass itself. Mulching turns lawn clippings into easily compostable material that is good for you lawn, good for the environment and good for your wallet.

What is Mulch?

Mulch from a lawn mower consists of grass clippings that have been cut down to fine pieces. This small size allows them to easily contact the soil surface where they can be quickly broken down by microorganisms. In turn, this transfers the nutrients inside the clippings back into the soil and eventually into the grass.

Why Should I Mulch My Yard Clippings?

Mulch is high in nutrients, particularly water and nitrogen, and can provide as much as 25% of the fertilizer needs for your lawn. It also acts as a protective layer, keeping the ground cooler while reducing evaporation.

It doesn’t take any longer to use a mulching mower than a standard mower, and there’s no need to bag the yard waste. That means less work. Bagged clippings are also a major source of trash: the EPA estimates yard trimmings account for 13% of America’s waste collection. Some areas charge extra to collect yard wastes, which means switching from bagging to mulching can save money and reduce waste every time you mow.

Does Mulch Increase Thatch?

Thatch is created when clippings, leaves, stems and other organic materials gather on top of the soil faster than they can be decomposed. It may seem logical that mulch would increase thatch, but because mulch is so easy to break down, it doesn’t stay on the surface long enough to add to the thatch layer.

Of course, if there is already a thick layer of thatch, the mulch won’t be able to reach the soil for decomposition. Overfertilization can also increase thatch: remember that since the mulch helps fertilize the soil, other fertilizer treatments should be reduced.

How Often Should I Mulch?

Ideally, the grass should be mulched each time it is mowed. However, there may be some times that the grass is too tall or too wet which can lead to clumping. Instead of being cut and spread out over the lawn, the clippings will stick together and fall out of the mower in large chunks.

How Can I Avoid Clumping?

The rate at which clippings will integrate into the soil layer is determined by their size. Clumping occurs when the clippings are too big. Most of this comes down to the mower design: a good mulching mower will have a large mowing chamber and blades that are angled to throw clippings upward. When clippings are cut, they will be flung back and forth between the top of the chamber and the blades, being trimmed down until they can fall through the blades to the turf. Honda has taken this a step further with their Twin Blade design: it uses a secondary blade to immediately trim clippings as they are sheared off by the leading blade, shortening the clipping on the first pass and cutting it down more rapidly while it’s still in the mowing chamber.

Long and wet clippings can be so heavy that they fall out of the mowing chamber before they have been fully cut, which can also lead to clumping. Most of the time, this can be avoided by mowing slower to give the clippings time to be chopped up and raise the deck to reduce initial clipping size.

If the grass still wants to clump, it’s better to bag rather than mulch. A Twin Blade-equipped mower can usually handle these conditions without problem, but if this is a constant concern, you may want to take a look at Honda’s HRX mower: it can bag and mulch at the same time, allowing the operator to adjust the ratio to put down as much mulch as possible without clumping.

Where to buy Honda Mower parts and accessories

Looking to fit a mulching blade on your Honda mower? www.hondalawnparts.com has the blades you need and much more: they carry everything for Honda small engine equipment from lubricants to trimmer line, and they can send it anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. An advanced search engine and online parts diagrams make it a snap to find exactly what you need to keep your equipment running.

Image courtesy: www.freedigitalphotos.net and lekkyjustdoit

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