Keeping your lawn green and healthy can be a bit overwhelming - there are so many different types of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides on the market today it’ll make your head spin. While these products can be effective in certain situations, there is a way to cut back your reliance on them - all you need to do is use some of the grass, twigs, and leaves found in your lawn. By composting your grass, you are not only helping the environment, but also saving yourself time and money. Composting these clippings seems like a no-brainer, but before you go and start throwing a bunch of that green stuff in a pile there is a few things you should know, including all the reasons why.
Why to Compost Grass Clippings
First and foremost grass clippings contain an extremely high amount of nitrogen - usually around 10%, making it higher than many artificial fertilizers. This nitrogen, along with potassium and phosphorus, are released when the grass starts to break down. This type of fertilization is all natural, making it better for the environment than man made fertilizers - often these non-composted types don’t break down as easily and cause excessive runoff. This runoff can damage the environment and harm animals. Grass compost is not only great at fertilizing, but has other additional benefits such as improving overall soil structure. This hardier soil absorbs water more efficiently, letting you water less. In addition, but by using lawn clippings can back solid waste for the typical household by 20 percent!
Which Lawnmower Works Best?
For a standard garden, simply use a push lawn mower. These will usually come with a grass catcher on the back and can save you time collecting the clippings. However, for larger scales, you may want a riding lawn mower. You can find a convenient review of the best riding lawn mowers available right here.
What you Need to Start for Composting
Many of the tools you use to upkeep your lawn is often all that is needed for grass composting. Most importantly you’re going to want a lawn mower with a sharpened blade. From here it is highly recommended you have an effective way to transport all those clippings. Some people rely on a lawn mower bag, while many others would rather just pick it up from the ground and throw it into a wheelbarrow. You might want to purchase a compost tumbler - these are not only great at containing the odors, but have also been shown to make those clippings break down faster. You can also create a small plot to hold your clippings with a few pieces of wood in a small section of your lawn - if you do this just make sure you have an effective way of covering it in case of a lot of rain.
When it comes to the actual composting process you aren’t going to use just the grass clippings by themselves - using clippings alone can create a mess. So make sure you have a way to get ahold of branches, wood chips, and dried leaves. There are some people that increase the fertilizer potency and decomposition of the compost with additional organic materials like used coffee grounds and eggshells. To help breakdown these materials a bit faster, try using a pitchfork and spade shovel.
Difference Between Grass Compost and Grass cycling.
Despite its name, grass cycling has nothing to do with bicycles but rather just an alternative way to compost your grass. Instead of putting all the grass into a pile and mixing with the necessary ingredients, grass cycling is applying the grass directly to the lawn as you cut it. The advantage of this is immediately obvious - you save a considerable amount of time every season. If you follow this strategy make sure you only cut when the lawn is dry, never remove more than a ⅓ of the length of the grass blade, and use a sharp blade to make sure there is no tearing of the grass. In addition, but be mindful how the grass is falling on your lawn - redistribute any clumped up areas into a thin layer of material over the lawn. Finally, make sure to cut every 5 days rather than 7. This strategy actually saves you time on mowing, but it also makes for better breakdown of the grasses.
Some Tips on Grass Composting
Composting typically takes a couple months. This means if you are collecting your grass clippings with a lawn mower bag you are probably going to produce more than you can compost. It is recommended to have multiple piles set aside to use all your clippings effectively, along with having compost in varying levels of decomposition. Make sure to mix all those greens with a small bit of brown materials like fallen branches or dead leaves at ratio of 2:1. As all these organic materials are simmering you are going to want to keep them damp but not soaked - too dry and it won’t decompose fast enough, too wet and you start breeding excessive amounts of nitrogen that can actually harm your lawn. Ideally you want your compost to stay about as damp as a wrung out sponge. It usually takes about 3 months to make a good compost - you want it broken down to the point that it has an earthy smell and looks like woody dirty. If you are in the rainy season make sure to cover your compost pile, and to uncover it after it stops raining. Remember, as good of a fertilizer source as this natural compost is, you still might need to apply additional fertilizer.
What not to do in Composting Grass Clippings
Do not use any lawn clippings that have been treated with pesticides or weed killer. If you do apply these chemicals make sure to wait at least two weeks before using the clippings - cut grass has a tendency to hold onto these chemicals much longer, resulting in messing up your compost pile. Make sure you are also mixing the required brown material. Without this additional bulk you can expect your grass clippings to retain an excessive amount of moisture and break down much faster than you want - this can lead to a brown mushy paste that smells horrendous. This is a result of the microbes breaking the material down anaerobically and producing too much nitrogen. This can also happen if you fail to give your compost enough breathing - that’s why it is recommended to keep the top of the compost pile open on sunny days.
Grass composting can better soil composition, provide a great source of nutrients, and cut back on unnecessary cleaning, thus saving you time. These plethora of personal benefits also comes with the knowledge that you are helping your local environment by cutting back on damaging pesticides, lawn fertilizers, and herbicides that seep into waterways - harming plants and animals alike. What little money you have to spend on composting is quickly covered by everything saved by doing it. With a bit of knowledge and just a little bit more sweat, you can have an impressive environmentally sustainable lawn.