Mowing the lawn often produces useful clippings for the garden. Below, we will discuss what to do with grass clippings in the vegetable garden.
Benefits of Grass Clippings
Grass clippings are good for the garden because they contain some amounts of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus . These are essential nutrients for healthy plant growth.
Moreover, during decomposition, the clippings feed bacteria in the soil. Leaving it on your lawn (grasscycling) is another benefit. The clippings will seep into the soil as they decompose, making it more fertile.
Using it as Mulch
Mulching grass clippings in the garden has several advantages. You can spread it around crops in the vegetable garden or any plant area to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and nourish the soil.
Moreover, regulating soil temperature is important, and grass mulch can help with this. Clippings decompose into soil fairly quickly, in contrast to bark and wood chippings.
Furthermore, grass clippings used as mulch serve as supplemental fertilizer. It also keeps some pests at bay.
How to Prepare and Store Grass Clippings
Wet clippings can turn into a gooey mess and cause more harm than good. They can mat down, preventing moisture and oxygen from reaching the soil. Dry lawn clippings, on the other hand, are safer to use and will not hurt your garden.
After cutting the grass, leave the clippings out for a day to dry a bit. Next, collect them with a grass raker for storage or use right away.
The sun will fade the top layer, but underneath there is a layer with the sweet scent of hay, ready for gardening.
When dried, pitchfork them into a wagon or wheelbarrow and place them in your garden beds around vegetables or flowers.
To store them longer, bag them up, press the air out of the bags, and place the bags in a dry area for future use. They can last up to two years if properly stored.
How to Use
Apply in thin layers in the vegetable patch or around ornamentals. You can also fork the dry clippings around trees.
For the lawn, the windrow method is usually applied. Garden tools like a lawn sweeper can help with this task.
Windrowing means raking the clippings into rows or bails so you can easily collect them. After leaving it out for a while, flip the bails so the other side gets some sun.
Spread the collected material in rows between crops and around other plants. Make it about 1-2 inches thick. You can use the clippings as mulch to prevent new weeds from growing and suffocate existing ones.
Applied to damp soil, press the clippings in a little to avoid being scattered by the wind. You can also lightly water it with sprinklers to keep it down.
What to Avoid
There are a few downsides and concerns when using grass clippings.
Always remember not to take clippings from lawns treated with pesticides or herbicides. The mulch made from these clippings can harm your plants. These chemicals can kill vegetable crops. They may also be a source of toxins in foodstuffs for the table.
Additionally, it may be tempting to pile on the mulched grass thickly. However, this could result in clumping, preventing air and moisture from getting to the plants. This is especially true around tree bases, where a ring of earth should be left clear so the trunk can breathe.
Thick clumps can also look unsightly on lawns and around flower beds. A fine layer of grass cuttings can look very attractive and be beneficial at the same time.
Keeping the stored cuttings dry avoids the unpleasant smell of soggy, rotting grass.
Other Uses for Lawn Clippings
What else can you do with grass clippings?
- Composting it. Lawn clippings are a good source of nitrogen to add to other organic materials in a compost pile. When paired with carbon-rich materials, nitrogen levels aid in the breakdown process. This later turns into a good soil amendment.
- Add to your vegetable garden beds. Use it as a nutritious top dressing for raised beds.
- Make liquid fertilizer. Cuttings steeped in water for 3 to 4 days and then strained will leave a high-quality liquid fertilizer to spray on and around plants. Moreover, it is very mild and will not burn plants.
- Livestock feed. While not all livestock can handle fermented grass, cows can be fed fresh cuttings. It is also more digestible than hay.
- Leave it on the lawn. A light layer can help improve the condition of the lawn, as it is a great source of nitrogen.
Mowing the lawn requires time and effort. However, the garden and gardener can benefit from the lawn clippings in various ways.