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Archive for Sunday, April 23, 2006

Mulch madness

April 23, 2006

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Julie and I had been raking awhile. And it was time to start bagging the piles of leaves.

After my daughter and I stuffed a few paper lawn bags, I realized it was time to bring in some power.

"Hang on, I'll get the mower."

My 6-year-old Craftsman 6.0-horsepower mower started crunching through the leaf pile, reducing it to dusty confetti and then capturing it in the grass catcher.

Emptying the grass catcher into a leaf bag, I was surprised because I never seem to get my mower to chop that finely with fresh, green grass.

I wondered how newer mower models were at mulching during the heavy growth season.

Super recycling

"The technology is getting better," said Neil McCullough, who owns Fleetwood Mower and Rental, 710 W. Sixth St.

To get the most out of a mulching mower in the past, you had to push it slowly through the heaviest grass.

"Most people don't have the patience to do that," he said.

Thankfully, Toro and Honda are working to speed up the process for those serious about returning the grass clippings into the soil.

Toro has designed a better way of deflecting the cut grass back at the mower blade, so that it is more finely chopped and actually pushed down below the turf, he said.

It's called the Super Recycler Cutting System, which Toro describes as having "a veneered cutting blade, clipping accelerator and kickers."

Jim Kuester, sales manager at Fleetwood Mower and Rental demonstrates a new Honda HRX mower with "Versamow". The mower has two blades for better mulching and a way to adjust how much you bag and how much you leave behind on your yard.

Jim Kuester, sales manager at Fleetwood Mower and Rental demonstrates a new Honda HRX mower with "Versamow". The mower has two blades for better mulching and a way to adjust how much you bag and how much you leave behind on your yard.

"It not only chops it finer, but it chops it quicker," McCullough said. "We've been able to chop it pretty fine for a while now. But the trick is to get it chopped quicker so you won't have to walk so slow."

McCullough said Toro's Super Recycler should help cut down on the amount of yard waste. And it will help bring nutrients back to the soil more quickly.

Honda's 'Versamow'

McCullough often gets calls in April and May from people who are a little disappointed with their mulching mowers because they tend to leave behind balls of grass.

He tells them that if they cut more often, or take a half cut instead of a full cut, and walk slowly, that will help out.

Honda has come up with a new system this year that may solve the problem in heavy grass growth.

The company has a new "Versamow" system built into its top-of-the-line HRX consumer mower models.

What's new is that you can control how much grass you put back on the lawn and how much you allow to enter the mower's bag.

Honda has done that with a mulching door that has 10 settings. You can shut it all the way for complete mulching or you can open the door part of the way or all of the way, deciding how much you want to bag or mulch.

The new Honda HRX mower with "Versamow"  has two blades for better mulching and a Clip Selector to adjustment how much you bag and how much you leave behind on your yard.

The new Honda HRX mower with "Versamow" has two blades for better mulching and a Clip Selector to adjustment how much you bag and how much you leave behind on your yard.

"That takes care of some of the problem you see in April and May, when you're trying to mulch up too much bulk," McCullough said.

Honda also has a MicroCut Twin Blade system that produces finer clippings, which creates less volume for easier bagging.

Blistering through

I pushed the mower through more leaves, then it sputtered and quit.

"Out of gas," I said.

"Are you going to get more gas?" Julie asked.

The sky had darkened. And we were starting to feel a few heavy drops of rain. But we still had about 30 feet to go.

Mulching mowers and new ones with "Versamow" systems, super recyclers and twin micro blades are great - until you run out of gas.

"No time. Let's just finish it up by hand," I told Julie, grabbing a rake.

In hindsight, maybe I should have gone for gas: the blisters have lasted all week.

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