Lawn Cuttings: From Composting To Mulching – A Comprehensive Study

Where there is a lawn, there are lawn cuttings. Before the beginning of each season, we mow our yard to have a tidy look. There will be plenty of grass clippings each time you finish mowing.

But the question remains, what to do with it?

Leaving grass cuttings on lawn is common for some whereas you may be wondering something else. Composting with grass clippings sounds a good idea too! So, in this in-depth article, I will talk about it thoroughly.

Leaving Grass Cuttings On Lawn

compost with grass clippings

You can organically improve the soil quality of your yard by mixing grass clippings into soil. Yes, I am talking about composting with grass clippings.

There is no better way to feed your lawn with quality lawn food than organic compost with grass clippings!

But if you want to leave it on the lawn, make sure their lengths are not more than 1 inch. Anything above will damage the lawn beneath them. Also, make sure the grass is dry. If they are long and wet (or any), you must remove them completely from the lawn.

What more interesting about this is that you don’t have to do many hard works to do that. Just leave them there and nature will do the rest. Here are some key benefits if you plan to compost with grass clippings:

  1. It’s a blessing for lawn with low organic matter. It’s a great lawn food if your lawn is sandy or full of clay.
  2. Leaving them on the lawn also reduce your mowing time. As per the study of A & M of Texas, you will save up to 7 hours each season.
  3. It reduces the need for using nitrogen fertilizer significantly as it is enriched with valuable nutrients like potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorous for your lawn. As per EPA, you can skip one year of fertilization due to these added nutrients! However, never try to skip the fall season.
  4. The compost from such clippings improves the soil structures too. Meaning, as per the study of the University of Minnesota, your lawn soil will be able to hold up to 12% (approx.) more water.
  5. Doing so will reduce the amount of waste pile up too. In case you don’t know, yard trimming contributes up to 20% of solid waste.

Apart from the above benefits, tilling grass clippings into garden is exactly what nature wants.

The soil will absorb such dead plants and break them into microbes and valuable lawn foods for new grass. That’s the natural recycling process. The circle of life!

How To Compost Grass Clippings?

Now that you know all the cool benefits of grass clippings as compost, it’s time to know how to process grass clippings for composting. This is how you can compost such clippings directly on the lawn:

You need to ensure you cut your grasses at their ideal height and you should never cut them 1/3rd of their height at once.

Cutting them at their ideal height depends on the season you are mowing too. If it’s a warm season, you can cut them at 2 inches and if it’s the cool season, you can cut them at 3 inches max.

When done mowing properly, leave those clippings on the lawn to decompose naturally. Rake them out if you notice they are collecting in piles to ensure their faster decompose. And that’s it!

However, if you want to compost grass clippings in a bin or pile, things get a little bit complicated. You need to add brown materials to make it work. This is how you should do it:

Dry out your clippings first and add only dry grass to the pile. The carbon to nitrogen ratio should be 30:1. To ensure that you need to mix 50% of brown materials like newspaper, brown leaves, or branches with 50% of grass clippings.

How Long Does It Take For Grass Clippings To Decompose?

If you just leave them on the lawn to decompose naturally, within just a few days, they should decompose. But it will take a little bit more weeks if you plan to decompose them in a pile. In that case, it usually takes a few months.

To make the process faster, you can need to mow every 5 days a week if you leave the clippings on the yard. This will ensure mixing grass clippings into soil properly and ensure faster decomposition.

For decomposing in a pile, you need to ensure the ratio right. Turn the pile weekly and add water if they are dry if you want to use grass clippings as compost.

Mulching Grass Clippings

grass clippings for mulch

If grass clippings in compost do not sound good to you, grass clippings for mulch should sound exciting to you.

Beyond doubt, mulching helps your lawn a lot. It helps to reduce weeds and maintain soil temperatures. That’s the reason it’s always good to put mulch around your vegetables, flowers, and trees.

Yes, you can use the clippings as a good mulching option subject to the condition of fulfillment of some conditions like the followings:

  1. If you have recently used any herbicide to treat weeds like dandelions, you should not use such clippings for mulching to avoid damaging your lawn.
  2. Do not use anything but dry clippings for mulching. As wet clippings mat down easily, a reduced number of oxygen and moisture will get into the lawn soil. Put simply, we clippings will burn your grass!
  3. Lack of oxygen will also cause anaerobic decomposition of the grass clippings which will cause a foul odor in turn.

As you can see you need to dry them first before mulching. But how to dry grass clippings?

Well, wet plants get hot (really HOT!) and it will kill your lawn grass. So, only dry clippings are recommended for mulching. Keep your clippings on a tarp. Make sure to spread out the tarp in a sunny area.

You need to make sure enough sun and air to it. Fluff and turn often to ensure that. Within days, you should have your dried clippings ready to be used for mulching!

When To Dump Lawn Cuttings?

You don’t need me explaining the benefits of compost fertilizer for your lawn. That’s why I always recommend recycling them first. But that may not be possible all the time. You may need to dump them. In that case,  you will need a dump cart to make the process easier for you.

Here are the cases where you need to get rid of them:

  1. If the lawn is disease-infested already. If there is a leaf or rust spot, you should remove the grass clippings from your lawn to reduce the impact of the disease severity.
  2. If your lawnmower does not operate without the bagging attachment. Well, in that case, you don’t have any choice, do you?
  3. Keep the curb and gutter near any storm drains free of clippings always.
  4. Do not put such clippings if the lawn is wet. Remove them too if they are too tall to avoid smothering the lawn grass.

Why Should You Remove Grass Clippings?

where to dump grass clippings

Apart from making your lawn look ugly and leaving some discolored patches, there are some good reasons to remove such lawn cuttings. There is a genuine concern for your lawn health too if you leave long and wet clippings there.

Leaving long and wet clippings will result in a thatching problem too. The layer of thatch slows down the natural drainage system of the soil. The rainwater won’t be able to soak through to reach the roots of your lawn grass.

The trouble does not stop there…

Thatching can cause other problems too. For example, if you are familiar with Fusarium patch disease of lawn, that kind of disease happens due to thatch.

Due to the severity of thatching on the lawn, many professionals scarify their greens, stadia, and pitches every year to remove the thatch.

Alternative Usages of Grass Clippings

As you can see, removing the lawn cuttings has some advantages too apart from making your lawn neat and clean. But you can still use them for other purposes too instead of just throwing them away.

  1. Livestock Feed

You can turn them into silage and feed them to your cattle. Such silage contains protein content of almost 18.2%. It is more digestible than normal hay. If you don’t have any cattle to feed, inform someone who has cattle. They will take your clippings on their own.

  1. Liquid Fertilizer (Tea For Lawn!)

If you allow your grass cuttings to steep in a bucket of water, the water will turn into liquid fertilizer. All the nutrients like amino acids, phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium will get mixed with the water. Just after a few days (preferably 2 weeks), feed your lawn grass the liquids.

Make sure to keep the bucket downwind for that time being. It will get smelly as the days’ pass.

  1. Artisanal Hay For Bunnies

Dry out the clippings first and then you can feed your bunny! You need to dry them out really well before you can feed them. You can serve the hay with a sugar snap pea garnish.

  1. Keep The Deer Happy

It’s hard to keep the deer outside the lawn. But you can use the grass clippings as a bribe to keep them outside the lawn!

Yes, put your lawn clippings at the edge of the woods. They will find their food long away from your lawn so they won’t bother your lawn anymore!

  1. Make Your Own Dye

If you are a DIY enthusiast, you can make your own natural dye for your clothes out of such freshly cut clippings. For the colorfastness, you will need to use mordant. And depending on the mordant, you can get, green, bright gold, and pale yellows.

  1. Feed The Worms

Whoever has a garden and a compost pile should have a worm bin too. That’s how you keep feeding your lawn natural compost fertilizer without costing anything.

But you should feed your worms too. And the best way to feed your worms is by giving them fresh grass clippings. Don’t give them too much to avoid the stinking problem.

  1. Keep Feeding Your Container Garden

Growing herbs and vegetables in small containers is always a good idea even if you do this on a small scale. Whereas watering those containers is always recommended, you can keep this at a minimum if you feed them natural compost fertilizer.

What you can do is just keep a layer of lawn cuttings on the top of the soil. Your vegetables and herbs will get natural food automatically.

  1. Send Them To Who Need It

Talk to your neighbors or friends who might need those clippings for their lawn or garden. It will keep them happy and you can keep your lawn clean at the same time.

Where To Dump Grass Clippings?

If you think your lawn is healthy enough and you don’t need those clipping on your lawn, you are welcome to dump them somewhere else. Here are some places you can think of:

  1. Send Them To Local Recycling Center

That’s what you should do as a good citizen if you don’t see any alternative usages of your excess grass clippings. Call your local recycling center about your clippings and most of the cases they will set a date to collect them from you.

Alternatively, you can mow your lawn at certain times where such recycling centers collect clippings as a routine job.

  1. Contact Any Local Gardening Business

If sending them to your local recycling center is not an option for you, try contacting any local gardening businesses. They often take such clippings for composting or mulching purposes.

The entire process of sending them to gardening businesses won’t cost you a dime.

  1. Curbside Pickup Option

It’s more like sending them to your local recycling center. You can leave your clippings and other wastes to the roadside (of course, within a designated location) on a designated pick up days set by your municipality.

  1. Send Them To Local Disposal Site

If there are no ways mentioned above, you can always send it to your local disposal site to get rid of them. From old metal scraps to old furniture, the dispose of everything. Surely, they will help to get rid of your clippings too. Depending on your area, you may need to pay a small fee though.

Conclusion

As you can see, you do a lot with your grass cuttings. If you think mulching grass clippings is not your thing, at least try to use grass clippings for compost. It does not make any sense to dump them.

Whatever you do, share this article with your friends so that you can learn a thing or two.

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