Mulching vs side discharge compares the two most commonly used lawnmowers today. On the one hand, you have mulching mowers that can mulch and fertilize grass while cutting it simultaneously.

Comparing Mulching and Side Discharge

On the other hand, you have side discharge ones that allow you to cut wet, long grass and cover a large area. Find out the basic differences between both of them in this well-researched guide.

Mulching vs Side Discharge Comparison Table

Mulching  Side-Discharge
Description Mowers attached with a mulching blade allow you to convert cut grass into mulch.  Mowers that cut grass and then either bag the cut clippings or throw them out from the sides.
Uses These can cut, mow, and store grass or convert it into mulch. They can cut grass and then either bag it or discharge it from the sides.
Length of Blade Long Short
Shape Of The Blade A curved cutting edge provides more surface area
  • A rather straight cutting edge.
  • Some blades have a smaller curve at the end.   
Best For Small lawns, Larger lawns
Ability To Cut Tall Grass No Yes
Ability To Cut Wet Grass No Yes
Ability To Fertilize The Lawn No Yes

What Is The Difference Between Mulching and Side Discharge?

The main difference between mulching and side discharge is that mulching types have curved blades that cut grass into very small pieces. There is no opening for discharging the lawn cuttings. A side discharge has an opening through which it throws the clippings out.

What Are The Characteristics Of Mulching Mowers?

Some important characteristics of mulching are that it serves as an effective fertilizer, needs less clean up, and makes for a healthier lawn. 

Mulching Lawn Mower

– Serves As a Fertilizer

Mulching blades help you to fertilize your lawn while you mow it simultaneously. What happens is that they cut off the grass finely, and then the cut grass moves into the cutting deck, where it is chopped up into different finer pieces.

These very finely cut pieces of grass are then strewn across the lawn while the mower moves from one end to another. These are naturally rich in nitrogen and serve as organic mulch and fertilizer. 

Because they are cut into such small pieces, they get decomposed in a short amount of time. In many ways, this natural fertilizer works much better than any organic fertilizer. What is even better is that these clippings are laid down in a neat little layer that does not ruin the overall look of the lawn.

– Needs Less Cleanup Afterwards

Unless you live someplace very windy, using mulching types of blades will need very little cleanup after mowing. If tall buildings surround your lawn, then the mulch clippings will be automatically prevented from being blown away by strong winds.

The grass cuttings laid over the lawn by these blades are pretty neat and do not give a rough appearance. However, if you still want to clean up your lawn after mowing, that is quite easy.

Moreover, these mowers have the option of turning off the mulching mode as well. You can simply choose to collect the grass clippings instead of converting them into mulch or discharging it from the side.

– Safer Than Side Discharge

These mower blades are much safer compared to side discharge blades. This mower keeps all the clippings contained under the body of the mower. 

This means no more cut grass pieces flying off the sides. This is handy when people and pets are around, and you do not want pieces of grass going into their eyes.

– Makes The Grass Look Lush

Using mulching blades to mow the lawn and simultaneously spread grass clippings as mulch over it will make your lawn lusher. Mulch acts as an organic layer over the entire lawn, which prevents excessive water from evaporating. In fact, mulch can help retain as much as 80 percent of water, compared to grass that is not covered by mulch.

So basically, these grass cuttings not only help retain water but provide nutrition as well. You will notice your grass becoming greener and lusher than ever.

However, remember that only grass varieties with wide blades take kindly to being mulched. Do research on what grass variety you have growing on your lawn and whether you should mulch it or not.

– Not Good for Wet or Long Grass

Mulching mowers are not suitable for cutting wet grass. When cut into small pieces by such blades, wet grass gets stuck inside the cutting deck and is not discharged by the mower. 

Unless you clean the deck after each use, these wet and clumped-up clippings will also affect the efficient working of the mower blades. 

Moreover, the curved end of the mulching blade does not give it the freedom to cut very long grass either. Again, using this blade to cut long grass will lead to the deck clogged and random long pieces of grass collecting patches over the lawn.


What Are The Characteristics of Side Discharge?

Some important characteristics of side discharge are that it can quickly mow grass in very large areas of land, is suitable for all soil types, and, most importantly, will even cut tall and moist grass.

– Mows Large Areas Quickly

A side discharge mower is great for mowing lawns that are large in size. This mower will do the work much faster if you allow the cut grass to blow in various directions.

This mower is much faster because it does not have to spend time converting cut grass into mulch. The mower just keeps cutting ahead with its sharp blades and discharging the cut pieces on the side in a very short amount of time.

– Can Be Used On All Soil Types

A discharge mower has the great advantage of working on all soils, lawns, and grass types. Do not worry about it if your lawn is made up of a mostly sandy type of lawn. 

Still, the grass blades need to be taller if this mower is to cut them efficiently. You will find it hard to mow grass that does not grow very tall. 

Side Discharge Lawn Mower

The surface of the lawn is also better flat or smooth for discharge to work properly. Otherwise, the grass will get cut up unevenly.

– Works Even On Wet and Tall Grass

Compared to mulching mowers, discharge ones are very effective against wet or tall grass. This is because they have an opening on the side from which the lawn clippings get thrown out. These wet or long clippings will not get stuck within the blades or cutting deck.

This is good news for you because you will not have to clean your mower after each use. You will also not have to wait for the rainwater or the early morning dew to dry before embarking on lawn mowing.

If you do not have time for regular lawn care or your grass seems to grow tall quickly, then this is the mower you need to have. The shape of the side discharge blade allows you to cut wet and tall grass easily compared to that of a mulching type of blade.

– Less Frequent Mowing Needed

A discharge mower will save a lot of time because less frequent mowing will be needed. Firstly, this is because it can mow very tall grass without any risk of it getting choked up. The grass can grow tall whenever you are busy and then be easily cut off when you get the time for it.

Secondly, the side-discharge mowers are designed so that their blades can cut very close to the ground. For grasses that can be mowed low, this is very useful.

You can mow them as low as possible and take a break until the grass grows again. We are sure that those who live hectic lives or are not that invested in constant lawn care will be very happy with this feature.

– Side Discharge Is Very Messy

Side discharge basically works by splattering grass clippings several feet away from the mower. Because of how the blades work, these clippings are strewn in all directions, making your lawn look messy.

Walls and fence that might be lining the lawn will get their fair share of grass splatters. If wet grass is cut, it will literally stick to any surrounding boundary or car parked alongside the lawn or the turf. 

You will also have to ensure no one is around when cutting grass with side-discharge lawn mowers. Humans and pets might cut grass into their eyes, which can be quite harmful.

– Waste Of Grass Clippings

Honestly, using side discharge instead of mulching mowers seems like a waste of grass cuttings. The grass cut by side-discharge type blades is much too large to serve as an effective fertilizer.

Moreover, these clippings are randomly strewn over the lawn and serve no purpose. In fact, they sometimes look so bad that they need to be removed from the lawn after mowing.

Some of the latest mower types allow you to bag grass clippings and store them. This will save you from cleaning the lawn after mowing, but you will still have to deal with the bagged clippings by yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

– Should You Mulch Every Time You Mow?

It is unnecessary to mulch your grass every time you mow, but it is beneficial. Mulching types of mowers are great because they give you the option of either turning cut grass into mulch or bagging it for any other use. 

Mulching Every Mow for Good Option

If you mulch grass every time you mow, you will see a great improvement in the condition of the lawn. A layer of mulch will help retain more moisture during hot days, decompose quickly, and turn into fertilizer. 

– Do You Have To Mow Slower When Mulching?

Yes, you have to mow slower when mulching grass while mowing. A mulching-type blade must cut grass clippings multiple times to become a worthy mulching material. Naturally, it cannot do so if you use the mower at a very high speed. 

With this mower, you need to go slowly also because it gets clogged up easily. Grass cuttings have no escape when the side discharge opening is closed. If you are going too fast, you risk getting the cutting deck clogged much faster.

– Will Mulching Weeds Spread Them?

Yes, mulching weeds will spread them all over the lawn. During mowing and mulching, the weed seeds will also get converted into mulch along with the grass blades.

These seeds will then be spread all over the lawn by the mower along with the mulch. Soon, you will notice weeds erupting where they were not growing. That is why we do not recommend mulching unless your lawn is completely weed-free.

– Why Does My Mulching Mower Leave Clumps Of Grass?

Your mulching-type mower is probably leaving clumps of grass because you are mowing wet grass. This mower is not designed to mow wet grass efficiently.

Cause of Grass Clumps Left by a Mulching Mower

Not only does it leave clumps of grass behind, but that machine also gets clogged.


You have now read a great deal about the mulching vs side discharge types of mowers. The main difference between them lies in their design and blade shape.

If you have a small lawn with grass that will grow better when mulched, then a mulching type of mower will suit you the best. For larger lawns and grass that grows tall frequently, a side discharge type of mower might be a better choice.

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