Mulcher lawnmowers review 2006

Mulching the grass you cut makes a lot of sense, not just for environmental reasons.
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  • Updated:9 Jan 2006

04.What to look for

  • The handle should be adjustable, turned up and comfortable to hold.
  • The engine control lever should be on the handlebar for easy access.
  • The starter toggle should be on the engine or halfway up the handle. Seven of the mowers tested have the starter toggle on the engine, while on five it’s halfway up the handle — the tables give details. If you don’t mind bending over, the motor-mounted toggles require little effort when starting: you put your foot on the mower, bend over and pull the cord as you straighten up. However, if you have problems with your back, you mightn’t want to bend over as much and prefer the toggle mounted on the lower to mid part of the handle — any higher up and you’ll need a lot of upper body strength to pull it. Try out what suits you best.
  • The cutting height should be easy to adjust, with one lever action, to many different cutting positions.
  • The catcher should be made of rigid plastic; with a bag-type catcher you can get showered in dust. It should have two handles: one for carrying and one for emptying.
  • The mulching adapter or plug (if the mower has one) should be easy to fit and remove.
  • Big wheels improve handling on rough ground.
  • With a wash port or nozzle on top of the housing, cleaning the underside of the mower should be easier.
  • For maintenance, spark plugs, oil and air filters should be easy to access.

Mulching or catching?

  • A lawnmower with a mulching plug or adapter is designed to chop the grass finely and blow it back down, forcing the clippings deep into the lawn.
  • Mulching will reduce your lawn’s need for water and fertiliser, as the mulch slows evaporation and returns the nutrients from the decomposing grass back into the earth. You’ll also need less time for mowing, as you no longer have to empty the catcher constantly and rake up unsightly strips of chopped-up grass left on the ground.
  • The only downside is that a mulching mower is less suitable for long grass, so don’t let your lawn grow to more than around 25 mm. If it’s longer, mow in steps and reduce the cutting height between cuts. Or use a catcher for long grass.
  • Many mulching mowers can also be used with a catcher. With most, you simply pull out a mulching plug or adapter from the back of the mower and fit a catcher.
  • All 12 mowers we tested are of the mulch-or-catch type, and they’re all pretty easy to convert from one mode to the other.
  • When you use a mower in catcher mode, the lawn should look perfectly clean afterwards, with no visible grass clippings left on the ground. None of the mowers tested had any problems in this mode when cutting short grass, but with medium and long grass, some slight differences started to show. The more grass clippings a mower left behind, the lower its cutting score.
  • In mulching mode, most mowers tested received excellent scores for cutting grass. The five listed at the bottom of the results tables scored a little lower for the grass’s appearance after mulching, with the last two leaving a narrow row of clippings behind on short grass and a thick row on medium-length grass.

Four-stroke or two?

  • Four-strokes are the most common and popular choice in petrol mowers. They run on standard unleaded petrol and have an oil sump that should be checked and changed regularly, just like the oil in a car engine.
  • Two-stroke mowers burn a mixture of petrol and oil rather than straight petrol and thus generate more air pollution. Their motors are much simpler and very reliable and they’re often preferred for mowing steep slopes because they don’t have an oil sump where the oil can drain to one end and stop lubricating the engine. However, four-strokes can generally cope with slopes of at least 15°, according to manufacturers.
  • As far as cutting performance is concerned, the two types of engine made little, if any, discernible difference in our tests. We included two VICTA two-stroke and two four-stroke mowers, to see how the two types of engine compared for cutting and mulching performance — the differences were minimal.
  • The biggest difference between four- and two-stroke mowers is their environmental impact. Four-strokes are much less polluting, typically emitting half the carbon monoxide and one-tenth the hydrocarbons.

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