Many people consider mowing the grass to be a bit of a chore – and disposing of the grass clippings afterwards can be another one. But each time we dump our grass clippings we’re missing a golden opportunity to use this natural resource for something that’s both environmentally friendly and practical. Grass clippings are an organic medium that can be put to good use in a number of ways that you might not have thought of.
Should you leave your grass clippings on the lawn?
If you’re a fan of the smooth, perfectly manicured look, you probably shudder at the thought of leaving your grass clippings on the lawn. But you’re missing out on the opportunity to add some quality nutrients to your lawn – for free.
Recycling grass clippings can provide a nitrogen boost for your lawn and act as a natural fertiliser. Why buy extra fertiliser for your lawn when you can use what it produces naturally? Short clippings will break down fairly quickly and deposit all those important nutrients back into the soil. And they won’t increase your levels of thatch either. Your grass will look greener, and grow stronger and healthier when you re-use your grass clippings to promote growth. Your soil will also feel the benefits, as the clippings encourage earthworms and other beneficial micro-organisms that will improve soil health.
It’s a good idea to use your grass clippings on the lawn every so often – but not all the time, especially as we approach winter. Leaving too many grass clippings on the lawn can cause your grass to lose colour or burn. Leaving overly long clippings on the grass can also end up stifling the growth of your lawn, so make sure you are mowing regularly and only removing a third of the grass blade.
However, if you really can’t stand the thought of not having a tidy and neat looking lawn, leaving your grass clippings to decompose on the grass might be a challenge for you. Rather than just tossing them in the recycling bin, there’s many more useful things you can use your grass clippings for. Here are some of them.
Make some super compost
Grass clippings are high in nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which is very beneficial for your compost heap. And they break down quickly and release all that goodness to create effective compost material that you can use on your garden. A good compost heap needs a mix of both green and brown material to create effective compost. Nothing is wasted – your compost mix will be enriched by adding grass clippings. And the sheer quantity of them will ensure that you always have plenty of compost on hand for when you need it.
Mulch to supress weeds
You can pile your grass clippings around your vegetable plot, flower beds, borders or even in your pot plants to act as a natural mulch. When used as a mulch, grass clippings will help block weeds, retain moisture and keep the soil cool. And as they break down, they will slowly add a steady stream of nutrients to the soil as well. You could buy mulching material – or you could use the 100% free mulch that your lawn produces. Just make sure not to layer the grass clippings on too thickly, as an overly thick layer of mulch will retain too much water and lead to diseases. A layer of mulch that’s about an inch thick is usually enough. Dried grass clippings are a really good option too and will help prevent mould and mildew from growing. Remove all weeds – both from the grass clippings and from the area you want to mulch – first before applying your layer of mulch.
Make a liquid fertiliser
Liquid fertiliser is a popular choice for gardeners wanting to feed their plants and improve their soil. Liquid fertilisers can be absorbed by the plants quicker than other types of fertilisers and are thus highly effective. What’s even better – you can make your own liquid fertiliser from your grass clippings.
Add your grass clippings to a bucket of water and let them steep for a few days to a week in a partially shaded area of your garden. Make sure you cover it with netting or mesh to keep mosquitos out. This will release all the nutrients from the grass – such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and amino acids – into the water. Simply strain out the liquid and use it as a liquid fertiliser for your garden plants or pot plants. They’ll love it and will happily thrive on this concoction.
Enrich the soil
If you’re planning a new planting, mix your grass clippings into the soil to enrich it, add nutrients, and give your new plants a good kick start to their growth.
Make animal feed
If you own cattle, you can use your grass clippings to make silage to feed them. This will give you a high protein feed that has a digestible matter content that’s higher than hay. Many animals, such as cows, goats, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs and geese, will enjoy eating the freshly cut grass clippings as well. If you’re doing this, ensure the clippings are actually fresh and haven’t been bagged up for a long time. The clippings can start to ferment inside a bag and grow bacteria that is harmful for animals. Fresh is always best. Make sure the clippings are not wet either, as wet clippings spoil quickly and can make animals sick.
Make a worm farm
Worm farms are a great investment in turning waste material into worm castings, which are extremely beneficial for both soil and plants. Invest in a worm bin and add your grass clippings to it. In a very short period of time the worms will have turned them into an environmentally friendly and effective plant food that can be used to improve the health of your garden.
Make your own essential oils
It’s a little off centre, but you can actually transfer the scent of your grass clippings into a natural carrier oil to create your own essential oil. It’s not as strange as it seems – the scent of freshly mown grass has been shown to increase happiness in people and actually smells wonderful.
Create grass-embedded paper
Another slightly off-centre use – it’s easy enough to create your own paper, and you can add your grass clippings to create a textured and nicely scented unique paper.
When not to re-use your grass clippings
If your lawn has a disease or infestation and has recently been treated with a chemical product, you shouldn’t re-use those grass clippings. This is the time to dump them in the bin, so you don’t spread diseases and chemicals further through the ecosystem. And you definitely don’t want to feed those clippings to any animals either.
Another time not to re-use your clippings is when the grass is very long or very wet when you mow. This will make the clippings clump together and break down much slower, potentially causing problems for the grass.
See here for other common lawn care mistakes you might be making.
There you have it – some great and highly beneficial uses for your grass clippings. So get mowing, and make sure you do something useful with the cut grass – your garden will thank you.