POWER IS CRITICAL
The power of the mower’s gasoline engine is the key variable in successful mulching of grass clippings and it is especially important for the effective mulching of leaves.
Modest Sized Lawn - Whether you buy a gas driven engine or an electric motor, you do not want an engine smaller than 4.5 horsepower on your mulching mower. An engine with 4.5 hp can do the mulching job for a modest sized lawn as long as the mowing conditions are close to ideal - the grass is dry and is not excessively long. The 4.5 hp engine will mulch an inch of leaves into the turf with no trouble if they are dry.
Larger Lawn - If you have a large lawn and if you know you often let the mowing job go a little too long and have fairly high grass to cut, then the higher the horsepower you can afford the happier you will be with your mulching mower. We recommend, if you can afford it to buy an engine with 5.5 to 6.0 hp for lawns 1/4 acre or more and for lawns where leaves will be mulched and collected in the fall.
BAGGING OPTION IS IMPORTANT
Never buy any mulching mower that does not offer a bagging attachment.
Most of the time you will be leaving the clippings on the lawn and will not use the bagging attachment. However, we all know that some time during the season, maybe after return from a month’s vacation, the grass is going to be over 4 inches tall for mowing. Most mulching mowers will struggle with effective mulching of grass over 4.5 inches if you cut it down to 2 inches all at one time. This is the time to go ahead and collect the clippings and put them around your trees, shrubs, and garden beds as mulch.
The other time you need the bag is in the early fall when the leaves begin to fall. If you have a fair number of trees, you will not be able to mulch ALL the leaves into the lawn. So you collect the leaves and grass clippings for the first few weeks of the leaf fall and then as you near the end of leaves falling from the trees, you will leave that last 1/2 inch of chopped leaves on the lawn to feed the soil.
Rear Bagger vs. Side Bagger
Usually the mowers at the lower end of the price range will offer bags that attach in some way to the side of mower. They work, but they can be a nuisance when maneuvering around obstacles. The better quality mowers usually have a rear end bagging attachment that fits right under the handle bar of the mower. This is a better option both for maneuvering the machine and for emptying the bag.
OTHER ODDS AND ENDS
Ergonomics are the design factors in any power tool that affect the comfort of the user when operating that tool. Lawn mowers are coming out with more and more concern for the ergonomics of their operation. Padded handles are one example. Some handles are designed so they can be adjusted for the height of the operator.
All mulching mowers now have some form of blade brake system to prevent you from letting go of the handle of the mower and allowing the mower blade to continue to rotate. There are two forms of this function - Blade-brake/clutch mowers and Engine-kill mowers. The blade-brake/clutch versions allow the blade to stop moving while the engine continues to run and the engine-kill version turns of the engine and the blade at the same time.
MAINTENANCE IS ALSO A FACTOR
No matter which machine you choose, we recommend that you be prepared to care for that fairly expensive piece of machinery as best you can. For details go to the file in Yardener’s Tool Shed Solving Lawn Mower Maintenance Problems