Side Discharge, Mulch or Bag?

SC 100 Walk-Behind MowersVirtually all Cub Cadet mowers give you a choice of mulching, bagging or discharging clippings, either straight from the factory or with the addition of a few accessories. When should you use each mode? It depends on the condition of the grass, its health and the look you want it to achieve.

Side Discharge

As the grass is cut, the clippings are thrown out a small chute on the side of the mowing deck. This is the simplest, most power efficient way to deal with clippings. This works best with standard or “low lift” mower blades. They have a profile that flings grass outward, throwing clippings out of the chute where they can settle on the ground. Side discharge is a good choice for cutting heavy, thick grass, and wet grass that clumps together as it’s cut.


Mulching works by cutting grass clippings multiple times to make smaller. These tiny pieces integrate themselves into the thatch where they’re broken down by microorganisms, returning nutrients to the soil.

To get this fine consistency, the blade creates a vacuum, throwing large clippings upward into the mowing chamber where they can fall back down to be cut again. Small pieces can slip between the blade edges and land on the ground. Cub Cadet builds all of their mowers with tall mowing chambers for good mulching performance, while high lift blades are shaped to produce the maximum vacuum. Stamped decks have a curved profile that hugs the blades, increasing vacuum. Constructed decks are more open, but they can get similar performance by adding a set of baffles. These are included in Cub Cadet’s mulching kits.

If you’re just starting to mulch, it may look like you’re increasing the amount of thatch on your lawn, but over time the opposite will happen. The microorganisms in the soil will thrive on this new food source, and in turn, they’ll be able to break down the woodier materials in the thatch layer faster.

Having trouble mulching a thick lawn? Cub Cadet makes Xtreme blades for most decks. These have added cutting surfaces near the tips of the blade for better mulching performance.


Bagging results in the cleanest finish, but by removing clippings, you’re also taking away the nutrients they contain. On average, a lawn that is constantly bagged will need twice the fertilizer treatment to keep the soil nutrients balanced. That’s not to say it should be avoided completely. Bagging clippings can halt the spread of mold spores and weed seeds, making infestations easier to manage.

If you want to bag your grass throughout the season, consider composting. By letting the clippings break down naturally, you can use them to fertilize your lawn or as cover for gardens. Fully digested mulch will be free of any surviving weed seeds or fungi spores.

Bagging works best with high lift blades. Mulched clippings pack down more so more grass can be held inside the bag.

Leaf Control

When fall comes, you can use your mower to help manage falling leaves. Whichever method you choose, you can reduce or eliminate the amount of yard waste you need to dispose of. This is better for the environment and your wallet.

In most circumstances, it’s fine to mulch the leaves. The soil should be able to handle mulch from layers three to four inches deep. You can also use your mower in side discharge mode, making two passes to cut the leaves down to size.

The leaves of black walnut trees have a toxic chemical in them that can harm many types of grasses and plants, so it’s better to bag these leaves instead of mulching them. However, if these leaves are composted, the digestion process will break down this chemical in about a month, making it safe to spread them on your lawn.

Looking for Blades and Kits for Your Cub Cadet?

Whether you live in the U.S. or Canada, you can get the parts and accessories you need for your mower from That includes mulching kits, blades, replacement bags and baffles for constructed decks. Finding parts is easy, too: browse our blade section, or select your model and serial number from the search engine to see parts that will fit your model.

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