Growing food to feed your family is a privilege. But it’s also lots of hard, hard work. And for the busy homemaker, tactics that keep the weeds at bay are always welcome in the vegetable (or kitchen) garden! Which is why many women are turning to mulch!
Some rely on old hay, old straw or even use broken up leaves. But today, I want to show you how to turn grass clippings into garden mulch!
Turn Grass Clippings Into Garden Mulch
Grass clippings make excellent organic mulch for the vegetable garden, flower beds and the kitchen garden as well. Similar to hay or straw, grass clippings smother out weeds, hold in moisture and will break down over time, nourishing the soil.
But there are a few things you need to know about using lawn clippings and specifically, how to prepare them for use in the spring garden!
Step 1: Examine Your Lawn Grass
Did you know that some types of grasses form seed heads while the blades are still quite short? It doesn’t matter where you live; it’s always a good idea to do a quick walk-over of your lawn to examine it for grass types.
If you notice grass with seed heads in certain parts of your yard, you’ll want to avoid using these clippings for garden mulch. Once the grass dries out, seed heads will fall to the garden soil and of course (being grass) will sprout and grow!
The first rule when it comes to using grass clippings for mulch is to make sure your grass is free of seed heads. Nothing but grass blades should be present!
Step 2: How to Manage & Mow Your Grass
If you plan to turn grass clippings into garden mulch, here are some tips that will set you up to succeed!
- Let your lawn grow 1-2 inches longer than normal before cutting, because longer grass means more mulch!
- If you use weed killer on your lawn, don’t use grass clippings from these areas or you will introduce toxins to your garden soil.
- Only mow when the grass is dry, or it will form matted clumps that are painful to deal with when mulching.
- Use a mower that has a catch bag, so you can make the most of your clippings.
- As previously mentioned, avoid areas where seed heads are present in the grass.
Step 3: How to Prepare Your Lawn Clippings
Choose a spot near your gardens where you can dump your lawn clippings. And then, it’s time to prepare them for the garden!
Here’s the thing you need to know about using grass clippings for mulch: you want to use dry grass for weed suppression. Put down a 1 inch layer of fresh, green grass and you will have a slimy layer of vegetation that turns to goo as it decomposes. It can also burn young seedlings if they come into contact with the hot mess.
To dry your lawn clippings, simply spread your pile out on the grass in a 1-2 inch layer. Let things sit for a day and then turn, if needed.
The topmost layer will turn golden in the sun. But the under layer will be a soft green color and should smell sweet, like freshly harvested hay!
Because that’s really what you’re doing. Making hay without seed heads!
Step 4: How to Store Your Grass Clippings
Once dry, grass clippings can be applied directly to the vegetable garden. If you have extra (or if you just aren’t ready for it), keep your lawn clippings in a dry place. You can store them in garbage bags or pitchfork the pile into a wagon and dump the goods in a shed. Depending on your climate, you may be able to tarp the grass right right there beside the garden!
If it gets wet, the grass will start to decompose and worse yet, a powdery white mold will start developing in the pile. This stuff is very hard on the lungs, so be sure to wear a mask when managing moldy grass!
If properly stored, grass clippings will keep for a year or two. Just note that the nutrients in the dried grass will diminish over time, decreasing it’s benefits for the garden soil in the way of organic matter!
Step 5: How to Use Grass Clippings for Garden Mulch
Once dried, grass can be applied to vegetable garden beds, flowers beds and the kitchen garden! Unlike straw or hay which has large stems, lawn clippings are very fine and form a delicate (but solid) mat over the surface of the garden soil.
For this reason, your grass mulch should be no deeper than an inch when applied. After a watering, it will diminish to even less than that. Because it forms such a fine mat, it’s usually enough to keep the weeds at bay!
If grass is layered on too thick, water will have a difficult time penetrating through. I go into greater depth on how to mulch the garden with grass clippings in this post here. You’ll find excellent photos and very useful tips in it!
Why Grass is the Best Organic Mulch
While straw makes wonderful mulch, it can be difficult to source and often, has to be purchased. Apart from this, straw comes from cereal grain crops (wheat, rye, barley, etc) and unless organic, has likely been sprayed with chemicals. As the straw decomposes in the garden, it will bring all that into the soil with it.
Hay is a cheaper option and less likely to contain toxic sprays. In order to keep mature seed heads from propagating grass throughout the garden, hay must either be allowed to rot or be thickly applied, a minimum of 5-6 inches. This requires more hay and also, more money.
So instead of purchasing mulch for your garden, it’s time you learned to use grass clippings instead!
Grass clippings are free, readily available and unless you spray or use chemical fertilizers on your lawn, grass is an organic mulch and compost for your soil!
Knowing how to turn grass clippings into garden mulch not only suppresses weeds and saves you time, but it’s free and will feed the garden soil over the course of a gardening year.
I don’t know about you, but that’s right up my alley!
One more tip for you? If you don’t have enough lawn clippings of your own, ask friends and neighbors to dump their lawn clippings on your land, provided they don’t use herbicides or roundup on their lawns!
Using grass clippings as garden mulch is a wonderful way to go! I hope you’ll give it a try!