Grass Clippings: Toss ‘em or Mulch ‘em?

>> Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One perpetual question homeowners deal with is what to do with grass clippings. Of course some people don’t worry about it, they just throw all clipping into the trash which adds to the growing problem of methane gas buildup at our landfills. They either don’t have a garden or don’t want to deal with a compost pile. Or, they just have too many weeds in their lawn.

Now, I have to admit I am one of those guys who actually enjoys mowing my lawn. It only takes me about an hour and it is an opportunity to examine the entire yard to see where there are problems developing. Also, I can see where weeds are becoming a problem around the flower and vegetable beds.

This year the issue hasn’t bothered me too much but its about to. What I have done with grass clippings so far is to spread them over a couple new beds I’m developing. You see it takes about a year before any new bed is ready to be planted in, that is using the method I do. There are quicker ways. Anyway, during that year I pile up the grass clippings on the planned beds and let them break down on their own. Occasionally, I’ll add some garden soil, some vegetable matter from the kitchen and some nitrogen fertilizer. But it is beginning to get to the point where those beds are getting pretty deep. I have been piling clippings along the fence on the west side of my yard to help keep down the amount of trimming I have to do with the string trimmer. It works to a point, and it is beginning to look like maybe I should build a new bed along the fence. It would be a great place to grow some flowering vines and some peas and beans.

I have learned that leaving clippings on the lawn does not create thatch as was once commonly believed and since I regularly aerate the lawn the build up of thatch is not a concern. That whole cycle of returning nitrogen and other nutrients back into the soil appeals to me. Plus, its that many fewer bags I have to haul away from the mower. At one point last year I collected nineteen bags of clippings! Usually early in the season, but OMG, I was amazed. Typically its seven to nine bags because I don’t regularly cut the lawn on a set schedule, anywhere from 8-11 days. The taller grass helps hold moisture in the soil and it seems to be working.

My lawn has plenty of earthworms as illustrated by the activity of Robins and Starlings pulling them up.

A couple of years ago, I learned that you should not place grass clippings on a compost pile if you have fed the grass within the previous two weeks. What I do with these is spread them over a concrete pad near the compost pile for a couple of weeks to dry it and then they can go on the pile.

So, toss ‘em or mulch ‘em? I’m going to start leaving them on the lawn and see what happens. Near the end of the year I’ll see whether or not any thatch has built up and go from there. Now, about starting new beds, I may have to ask some neighbors for their grass clippings.


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