How to Mulch with Grass Clippings
By: Julie Day
If I have clippings, I sprinkle them thinly in naturalized areas.
Is it a good idea to use grass clippings as mulch? -Henry
Grass clippings can make great mulch, though using them has advantages and disadvantages. To begin with, if you are mowing properly – with a nice sharp mulching blade set high, cutting no more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time – you shouldn’t HAVE any grass clippings. The small chopped-up snippets are best left where they are, to quickly decompose and feed your lawn.
However, if you’re mowing an overgrown area, or prefer to bag your clippings, here’s what you need to know about using them as mulch.
- Dry grass clippings: If applied too thickly, fresh green grass clippings turn into a smelly, gooey mess, smothering your garden with a hot, moldy blanket. The heat of decomposition can damage plants and invite diseases, and the matted, decomposing grass blocks air and water circulation.
- Build clippings gradually: Spread your clippings in a 1” layer, and allow them to completely dry and turn brown (a week or two) before adding more. Or, you can dry your clippings elsewhere and spread them when they’re ready.
- Beware of contamination: Keep in mind that clippings will be contaminated with any chemicals you have applied to your lawn. Any fertilizers, insecticides, or weed killers you used will then be filtered into the soil around your garden plants.
- Watch out for weeds: Most lawns have at least a few weeds, so there’s a good chance your clippings will contain weed seeds which may germinate in your garden.
As an alternative, add grass clippings to your compost pile, mixed with at least an equal amount of brown stuff (such as dead leaves) to balance out the composting process.