Mulching: what it is and how to do it for a healthy lawn

Mulching: what it is and how to do it for a healthy lawn

Mulching is an English word with different meanings: it means "ground cover" but also "fertilizer”. In gardening it indicates a grass cutting technique which foresees not to collect the mowing material: the lawnmower shreds it into small parts that will be left in the ground, to reintegrate organic substance.

We also talk about mulching in the agricultural field, when plants or other vegetable material are chopped to leave on the ground, to form a new layer. This practice is virtuous on an ecological level and represents an opportunity to enrich a land through its own turf. Sometimes the word "mulching" is also used to describe simple mulching, but here we go deeper into the technique in lawn care.

The practice of mulching was born in the USA in the early 90s, to reduce grassy residues to be disposed of in landfills. Mulching has also been widespread in Italy for some time, thanks also to increasingly better lawnmowers, specially designed to shred the resulting vegetable material during cutting. This is why it is becoming a trend in gardening.

What does mulching grass cutting mean?

Mulching simply consists of leave the mown grass in place, to do this you need a lawnmower without a basket, which directly releases the plant material onto the ground.

In gardening, mulching is performed pulverizing, given that the more accurate the shredding is, the faster the decomposition of the grass will be, avoiding the felt effect and in general aesthetic defects in the turf. With "felt effect"Means the formation of a layer of dead plant matter that dries up in the long run and creates a cover that is harmful to the live grass of the lawn.

A good mulching therefore requires a mower that is designed for fine chopping and fairly frequent cuts.

A correct mulching cut has a very positive effect on the soil: bringing back the material it fertilizes in a natural way. In the classic cut, vegetable matter is removed, gradually impoverishing the soil. Returning the cut to the earth keeps water and nutrients in place. This makes the turf healthy and uniform and allows you to save on fertilizers and also on irrigation.

How to mulch for a healthy lawn

Mulching is an extremely simple concept: the cut grass is left in place, so once cut it will decompose on the spot.

Good lawn management requires three important precautions in the first place:

  • The mower must be prepared to finely chop what is cut. The use of a high quality tool is essential.
  • The lawn needs to be cut often. Mulching with tall grass is unthinkable, frequent mowing is necessary.
  • The grass should be cut when it is dry, to prevent the shredded material from compacting by mixing the lawnmower machine.

Also two other useful tips are frequently check that the lawn mower body is clean, eliminating any residues e vary the cutting direction in order to make the work more homogeneous.

What are the materials to be shredded

In gardening, mulching is always done with the same grass you cut. We could also shred leaves and hay, but in a turf context no further material can be added.

If you want to mulch with bark, straw or twigs, it is good to proceed carefully, because they are materials that do not contain nitrogen and by decomposing, they remove it from the soil.

When to make the cut

In lawn care, it is very important how often to cut the grass. Mulching must be done frequently and at suitable times. The grass grows more in the summer, so in spring the cuts must be made regularly, at certain times even on a weekly basis.

As already mentioned it is important that the grass is dry enough.

In autumn it is often worthwhile to stop mulching, because on the one hand it is difficult to find times when the lawn is dry, on the other hand the lower temperatures do not allow for good degradation of residues and there is the risk of developing rot in the turf. In general, mulching should be carried out when the soil microorganisms are in full activity, therefore with a temperature above 10 ° C.

Advantages of mulching

Mulching has many positives, which are good to list one by one.

  • Allows water savings for watering, thanks to the reduction of evaporation and the contribution of moist substance.
  • It requires less effort in the work cutting grass and shorter time: there is no need to stop during cutting to empty the basket.
  • Keeps the turf lush, even without fertilization: the grass that settles after being finely chopped, releases nutrients into the soil and makes the lawn flourish.
  • Environmental value. When mowing the grass, the lawn is deprived of 1/3 of nutrients, since the grass tissue removed contains useful substances for the soil. Using the mulching technique, it is possible to recover up to 20% of the fertilizer previously applied, thus reducing unnecessary waste.
  • A living and active ground. The chopped grass left on the ground makes it moist and rich in organic matter, this helps the presence of organisms that will make it soft, all without spending money on fertilizer.

Disadvantages of mulching

Mulching cannot be done everywhere and in particular it does not adapt to English lawns and gardens of fine and manicured grass, therefore it depends on the type of grass. This method is excellent for rustic grass contexts, while there are contexts in which the clippings would stand out.

At the opposite extreme, even on untreated lawns it is not recommended: where the turf is neglected, the soil cover can favor the growth of weeds and the development of diseases, so it is important implement mulching only for managed lawns.

We can also consider the fact that this technique requires a higher cutting frequency: it is necessary to intervene often and never let the grass grow too much, otherwise it will not be possible to cut it by working it properly. On the other hand, even if you often cut, it is true that the operation takes less time, so the work is compensated.

It is also useful to know that the mulching lawnmower has a higher consumption of electricity or fuel, if we are talking about petrol lawnmowers. In fact, it has to do a double job: in addition to cutting, it also shreds the grass.

The choice of mulching mower

Choosing the right lawn mower makes gardening work enjoyable and satisfying and saves time. La choice of mulching mower it's not easy: you have to consider all the features, pay close attention to the quality of the cut and the motor, but also to the ability to chop into tiny pieces. The one-pass lawnmower performs three tasks at the same time: it cuts the grass, shreds it and repositions it on the lawn itself.

Precisely for this complexity it is worth selecting a high quality product, turning to a well-known and reliable brand. For example, STIHL lawnmowers, which also inherit the tradition of Viking tools, are a guarantee.

Buying a mulching lawnmower has undoubted advantages, as we have seen, and allows you to avoid having a basket to be emptied periodically during work and, at the end of the cut, heaps of grass to be disposed of.

We can opt for both a classic lawnmower with mulching function and an automatic robotic lawnmower.

Classic mulching lawnmower

There are excellent lawnmowers designed to mulch, compared to the basket models they are quite recognizable: they have a higher cutting hood and a blade with a counter helix, which allows you to keep the grass suspended and make a more homogeneous cut. Furthermore, they do not have drain holes and a collection basket. Then there are combined models, where you can decide whether to collect or leave the shredded grass on the ground.

Robot lawn mower

The robotic lawnmower is a really useful tool for those who do not have the time and desire to manage lawn mowing. These are small motorized devices that are able to autonomously cover the entire lawn surface, cutting as they pass. The concept is analogous to the various robot vacuum cleaners used indoors.

Automate the cutting operation it means being able to afford to do it very often and always have a perfect lawn. This condition is ideal for mulching, because the shredded material is distributed in a very gradual way and thus has time to degrade.

Virtually all robotic lawnmowers have the option of mulching, as it would be difficult to equip them with a collection basket. For this reason, robots are a great means of spreading this practice in gardening.

We can distinguish between razor and blade mowers. The blades have a remarkable cutting precision, continuously cutting small portions of grass. The razor models struggle during the first cut of the season or when the grass is high, while the blade models have no problems even in tall grass conditions.

Video: Bag or Mulch?