Do’s and Don’ts of Using Grass Clippings as Mulch

March 21, 2013 | Gardening, Lawn Care, posted by Sasha

grass clippings next to a lawnmower

Mulch can do great things for your lawn. It can help plant beds as well as your grass by conserving moisture, preventing weed growth and adding needed nutrients back into the soil. Grass clippings, once thrown away without a second thought by homeowners, are now known as an effective type of mulch. But should you be using mulched grass clippings across the board? The quick answer is “no”. Here’s why.

Grass clippings are not the best choice for your plant or flower beds for multiple reasons:

  • Contamination – If you use weed killers or fertilizers on your lawn, the chemicals on the clippings you’re using as mulch could damage your plants.
  • Odor –Grass clippings decompose rapidly because of their water content. This process produces a pretty strong, unpleasant odor that you probably will not want competing with your prize-winning roses.
  • Compaction – Clippings are not ideal for plant beds because after they dry and settle they compact by a few inches, not yielding much of a benefit to your soil.
  • Appearance – Grass clippings turn a light yellowish brown when dried out, which does not add visual appeal to your garden.

Shredded bark, compost or cocoa hull mulch would all be better choices for plant and flower beds. Check with a local gardening company to find the mulch most suited to your garden.

That’s not to say grass clippings are worthless—far from it. Grass clippings that settle into the soil of your lawn return nutrients to that soil, lessening the need for fertilizers and enhancing the health and growth of your turf. Additionally, using an organic material like grass clippings improves the soil structure, or how the individual soil particles combine.

The great thing is, many mowers already have a mulching function that cuts clippings into fine pieces and scatters them as you mow. Don’t have a mulching lawnmower? First take the bag or catcher off your mower. Mow your lawn around the outer edge and continue to the center. You will probably have to rake the rows of clippings to get them to settle evenly.

The bottom line is, don’t throw away your grass clippings! They will help you achieve a healthier, more beautiful lawn.

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