The pieces of grass produced when mowing a lawn are called grass clippings. The main component of grass is water, and this explains why they decompose so fast whether left on the lawn or even when tossed in the composite.
Grass clippings also contain very important nutrients like nitrogen, which is highly essential for the proper growth of lawn grass, if left on the lawn. There has been an unending discussion on whether or not to leave grass clippings on the lawn.
Majority of people claim that grass clippings contribute to thatch build up. This cannot be further from the truth; thatch is the hard layer of dead organic matter that forms at the base of the grass, thus inhibiting the root system from absorbing water, sunlight, and nutrients.
It is true, grass clippings can contribute to thatch, but only if the grass mowed is not healthy. But if it a healthy lush green lawn that produced the clippings, then these are very much okay to leave on the surface and watch your lawn become even greener than the other side. This leads us to the following question:
Is it better to leave grass clippings on the lawn?
After a tedious process of carefully mowing your grass; the last thing you want is to start another task of raking the grass for disposal into the landfill.
Grass clippings of a healthy lawn should be let on the grass so that they can act as mulch during the hot summer months, while at the same time nourishing the grass with essential nutrients such as water and nitrogen after decomposition.
This can even save you money because you will not need to fertilize your lawn more often. You will also not need to water the lawn more often especially during hot summers; you will see a huge drop in your monthly power bills.
If you are the type that uses chemical fertilizers, using grass clippings to nourish your lawn is a good practice since chemical fertilizers poison the soil and is not safe for children, animals, and the environment.
However, grass clippings of a previously treated lawn should never be left on the surface. They should not even be used for mulching other plants in the property. This is because such clippings only add salt to injury when they poison the soil even further.
The best way to deal with such grass clippings is to toss them into the landfill for decomposition. Also, grass clippings produced when mowing a very tall lawn should not be left on the surface.
These clippings are too big and will only mat together and smother the grass, something that may lead to the death or thinning of the grass. This explains why you should never let your lawn grass grow too tall.
If you plan on leaving the grass clippings on the lawn, ensure to use a bagless mulching lawnmower. This works by reducing the mowed grass into smaller pieces that decompose faster to nourish your grass.
As you move around cutting the grass, the pieces are left on the surface thus saving you the time and effort to spread it later. And even as you do that, ensure that your lawnmower blades are sharp enough to cut the clippings small for a speedy decomposition and to avoid smothering the grass.
What should I do with grass clippings?
However, even with the benefits that come with it, there are still some people who do not feel comfortable leaving the clippings on the lawn. If you fall into this category, perhaps your main concern is what to do with the grass clippings.
If you do not plan on leaving the grass clippings on the lawn, there are still so many ways of making good use of them. These include;
1. Mulching plants
Lawn grass clippings make good mulch since they help retain most of the water in the ground and this can save you lots of money in water bills. They also work by preventing the growth of weeds and stunting the little grown ones.
Through the process of decomposition, the grass clippings break down to form natural fertilizer for the plants. At the end of the day, you will have beautiful lush green healthy plants in your kitchen garden. This is only if the grass clippings came from a healthy untreated lawn.
2. Tossing them into the yard waste container
Alternatively, you can discard the grass clippings in your yard waste container. But even as you do this, it is good to confirm if your garbage disposal company allows it so that you do not get into trouble.
Sometimes you may even have to incur extra costs but it is worth it if you do not foresee a better way of dealing with the grass clippings.
3. Donating them to local farms
Local farms can as well find grass clippings useful for various applications. They can use them in the composite for making organic fertilizers. They can also use the clippings as animal fodder or even for mulching plants. Again, ensure the clippings are from a healthy untreated lawn to avoid misleading these people.
4. Giving them out to friends, family, and neighbors
Those grass clippings you see or consider useless can be useful to someone; your friends, family, or even that next-door neighbor. Before you think of tossing the clippings into the dumpster, donating to the nearest agribusinesses or farms, enquire whether or not your neighbor might need some.
They can also spread the clippings on their lawn, and save it from the beating by elements. They can also use it for mulching plants in their backyard, or better still use it in their composite bins.
5. Composting them
Apart from all the above uses of grass clippings, you can also toss the grass clippings into your composite bag. Upon decomposing, water, and nitrogen contained in the clippings helps accelerate the formation of the composite manure.
Plus, the grass clippings add to the amount of the composite. You can use the composite manure to grow plants and vegetables in your backyard.
How long do grass clippings take to decompose?
The main reason you should leave healthy grass clippings on the lawn is to ensure moisture stays back in the lawn. The main component of grass clippings is water, taking up to 80%; this means the clippings will be dead and decaying within a matter of 2 weeks at most.
The time it takes for grass clippings to decompose usually depends on the nature of grass and the prevailing weather conditions. For example, grass clippings may take longer to decompose if they were cut from overgrown lawn. This explains why you are advised to never allow your lawn to grow tall and always follow the one third thumb rule while cutting it.
Grass clippings as mulch pros and cons
Using lawn grass clippings as mulch comes with so many benefits that we are going to discuss. On the flip side, grass clippings as mulch also come with its fair share of problems as outline below.
- They help stunt the growth of weeds thereby making the grass even healthier and stronger.
- They help protect the base of the grass against harsh elements such as excess evaporation during hot summer months.
- They add water, and nutrients back into the soil after decomposition.
- They also mat together to smother the grass and this helps protect the roots system from strong raindrops during a heavy downpour.
- They help save money used to buy more fertilizer since they decompose and provide the grass with essential nutrients.
- They can mat together and smother the grass, something that inhibits the root system from breathing and absorbing water and nutrients. This ends up killing the grass.
- Sometimes the grass clippings may carry weed seeds and pests, and this works by transferring diseases to other parts of the backyard.
We have seen that, after mowing, there are many things you can do with the grass clippings besides leaving them to decompose on your lawn. The entire decision on what to do depends on the nature of the clippings and health status of your lawn.
- University of Minnesota Extension: What to do with lawn clippings
- University of Missouri Extension: Grass Clippings, Compost and Mulch
- Iowa State University Extension: How long does it take a compost pile to break down