While most people treat grass clippings like trash, those gardeners in the know treat them like gold. Grass clippings are crazy useful for gardeners (and the average suburban yard maintainer), but convenience has conspired against us all.

It’s just how the world works. For decades now, the unsuspecting public has been buying lawnmowers that have little catch hatches for the grass clippings created every Saturday. When dealing with those clippings, i.e., emptying started seeming to be too much work, mower manufacturers developed systems that would cut the clippings into pieces small enough that they needn’t be caught or raked. Grass clippings, for most, became a concern of the past.

However, some of us out there are stalking the world with our rakes, eyes like eagles looking for fields and lawns that have tufts of sweet green grass spun about. Our noses are sniffing, searching for the fresh-cut smell. We want those grass clippings.

Grass Clippings Are High in NPK

Source: Balcony Garden Web/Youtube

Grass clippings, like most green plant matter, are teeming with nitrogen. Even better, they are mostly composed of water, so they lose biomass and decompose quickly. While folks are out there spending a bomb on chemical and organic fertilizers, a bag of grass clippings can provide much the same for nothing. That’s why modern mowers were reconfigured to put the clippings back on the lawn rather than in catch hatches. The clippings feed the lawn, and a well-fed lawn means more mowing.

Green Grass Makes Great Mulch (Part 1)

Piling a few inches of fresh grass clippings on empty garden beds is a great way to mulch them (while providing the nitrogen and moisture we’ve already discussed.) Fresh grass clippings are much denser than hay, so they’ll subdue any weeds hoping to come up in the next week or a few. That said, it’s good form to avoid thick mats of fresh grass clippings as mulch in planted garden beds as the decomposition can be too hot for the living plants. Stop putting fresh clippings on the garden a couple of weeks before planting, or spread the clippings out thinly (no more than 1/2″).

Green Grass Makes Great Mulch (Part 2)

For those who have gardens already growing, there is still another good way to use fresh grass clippings. They can be piled in the garden pathways or alongside the garden beds to prevent vegetation from growing there. Then, when the grass has dried out a bit (a week or two), the old grass clippings can be moved to mulch around the plants and in the garden beds, and new grass clippings can replace the old in the pathways and along the edges. This creates a cycle that’ll serve the garden (and gardener) well all season.

Grass Clippings Work in Compost

Source: MIgardener/Youtube

In short, a good compost pile needs two main ingredients: stuff that’s rich in carbon and stuff that’s rich in nitrogen. Dry grass, i.e., hay, is a carbon-rich component, and freshly cut grass is a nitrogen-rich component. Just layers of these two elements, basically in equal parts (volume), will create rich compost. Fresh grass clippings can also be combined with leaves or shredded paper/cardboard to make compost, or dried grass clippings can be layered with food scraps. In general, compost piles should be a least a cubic yard (3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet), and the more that goes into the pile at once, the better.

Grass Clippings Don’t Belong in Landfills

Organic material—grass clippings being organic material- simply isn’t suitable for sending to the landfill. Landfills are already overflowing with stuff that doesn’t decompose and make wicked mulch and/or compost, so adding to the bulk with useful items seems irresponsible and wasteful. Furthermore, when organic material decomposes with inorganic material, it creates landfill gas, which is incredibly high in methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Instead, it could be filling our land with valuable nutrients, and the plants would absorb the nutrients for the forces of good.

So, if mowing the lawn creates an abundance of grass clippings, then, by all means, save them like the treasure they are. Pile them in flower beds, vegetable gardens, around trees (leave a little space between the clippings and the trunk), or in the compost bin. They are a great resource.

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