Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How to mulch with grass clippings

Have you ever tried mulching the garden with grass? Weeds are always a big problem for me and my weed barrier fabric was really late getting here this year. Since it didn't get in on time, my garden was quickly becoming overrun with weeds. I turned to grass clippings to save my garden from drowning in weeds.

I try to stay on top of the weeds, but it seems that no matter how many weeds I pull out or how much time I spend pulling them, they're always one step ahead of me! Normally I mulch with straw, but between not being able to find any straw and waiting on my weed barrier fabric to arrive, the weeds had started to get out of control.

mulching | garden | grass

Confession time: I've been known to mow parts of my garden when it gets too bad! If the mower fits between the rows....I'm going for it! Trust me, it works. Mow the weeds down then water a bit and those weeds pull out so easily! 

But this is not about the things I do when I'm desperate to see the dirt again, this is about preventing that from happening. That's where mulching comes in. I've mulched my garden for many years but usually I use straw, which was mysteriously hard to find this year. So I needed to come up with a different method because I really do think my garden does better with heavy mulching.

Mulching is great for keeping moisture in the soil, adding nitrogen and organic material, plus it also keeps weed seeds from germinating. Clearly a problem I'm battling! The great thing about using grass clippings is that it's free and I don't have to drive into town looking for it!

I started doing this almost 2 months ago and I've figured out 2 different methods. There's a wet method and a dry method. Both of them start the same way, you mow the grass with a mower that has a bag on it. For me, that means doing a lot more push mowing then normal, but my riding mower doesn't bag the clippings so I must sacrifice to collect the grass clippings.

The wet grass method

When grass is first clipped it still has a lot of moisture in it. As the wet grass breaks down and decays it produces heat which will burn the roots of the plants underneath it.  This is what we want for the weeds, but not for your veggies. I use it on the edges of the garden or on the path ways.

Only use freshly cut grass on areas that are a bit away from your plants and only put down about a one inch thick layer at a time. You can add more each week as you mow but if you start out with it too thick it will be too hot, get slimy or even develop mold.

The dry grass method

Since the grass is wet when you first cut it, you're going to need to dry it out for this second method. Take your bag of fresh grass clippings and dump it out somewhere in direct sun so it can dry for several hours. You'll need to spread it out and flip it a few times with a rake or hay fork to make sure its completely dry. I've used my truck bed or a large wheelbarrow to dry the grass out. Either one works well since they're easy to move into the sun. 

You could also dump the cut grass out onto a tarp to dry out, but make sure you don't put the tarp on the lawn or it may burn out the grass underneath. You can tell when it's dry because it will sound dry and crispy when your flipping it. It will still be green though, it takes several days to lose the color completely.

Spread the dried grass around your plants just like you would other mulch. I found it works best if you leave a slight space around the roots for watering. The grass has a tendency to mat down over time and water has a hard time getting through. I like to do a thin layer and let it build up over time, adding more each week as I mow. At first a few weeds do get through, but they're easy to pull since the grass clipping mulch keeps the soil moist underneath. As the layers build up, less and less weeds get through.

Mulching the garden

Obviously if you've sprayed your lawn with weed killer or pesticide then grass clippings may not be the best thing to use as mulch in your garden. Only you know what's on your lawn so only you can decide that. I don't spray my lawn because of the chickens so it works great for me.

After the growing season is over and it's time to till the garden, the  grass mulch gets tilled in to add organic material to the soil. If you've been adding grass clippings to your compost, using some in your garden is a good way to keep from overwhelming the compost pile with too much green at once. Since it goes into the garden, the grass clippings eventually end up in the soil so the end result is about the same.....except this way it keeps the weeds away too.

~L
                                            

3 comments:

  1. Mm,interesting! I always mow and dump it right on without a thought!

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  2. Good idea... and something we probably all have available. :)

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    Replies
    1. That's exactly why I started doing it! Straw was hard to find and so I started trying to figure out what else I could use. I had grass on hand every week....

      ~L

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