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Safe to Use Grass Clippings as Mulch in Garden Beds? SOLVED

Dumping mulch from a lawn mower onto bare dirt

The beauty of your home begins from the inside, right? Well, I would say no! Reason? People will always see the outside before getting to the inside. 

That’s why it’s easy to marvel at the sight of a well-manicured lawn and even place an estimated value on the property before seeing the interior. Therefore, it’s safe to say that as a homeowner, your pride is as much as your well-maintained lawn. 

However, that leaves you with a lot of grass clippings to deal with. But there are various useful ways to maximize this waste, instead of just throwing them in the yard waste bin. 

One of such uses is in your garden bed. Lawn clippings can turn your plain-looking garden into a den of healthy plants. If used properly, grass clippings can serve as a wonderful mulch for your plants and vegetables.

It’s generally safe and beneficial to use grass clippings as mulch for garden beds; as long as the grass is dried out and the lawn hasn’t been treated with any chemicals or contain any weed seeds.

Grass clippings can enhance the soil quality and preserve moisture, especially over summer. And once they decompose, they become the yummiest food your plants need to optimally thrive!

In this article, I take you through all you need to know about using grass clippings as mulch.

Let’s dig in!

How to Prepare Grass Clippings for Your Flower or Vegetable Garden

Step 1: Get the Perfect Grass

Even if your lawn is filled with grass, not all types are suitable to be used as mulch for your garden. Some contain seeds, and if used to create mulch, the seeds can easily grow in your flowerbed. 

Therefore, it’s important to examine all the grass in your yard for any signs of seed formation.

The #1 rule when using grass clippings as mulch is ensuring you only have grass blades (no weed seeds). 

Step 2: Manage the Mown Grass

Do you want to make amazing mulch from your lawn clippings? Tend to the grass, ensuring it grows an extra 1-2 inches. The taller the grass, the more mulch you’ll get! Letting your grass grow longer before cutting it is also healthier for your lawn, too.

If possible, avoid using chemicals on the lawn grass. But if you must, don’t use that grass to make mulch for your garden beds. The last thing you want is to introduce toxins to your vegetable garden.

Let the grass dry before mowing to avoid forming clumps. 

When mowing, use a mower with a storage bag to hold your clippings.

It’s also helpful to chop up your grass clippings using a mulching blade for your mower.

This will break up any larger clumps of grass, allowing it to dry out more quickly.

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Step 3: Prepare the Grass Clippings

It’s best to gather all the clippings you need near your garden.

Spread the collected grass on the surrounding area to dry. The layer shouldn’t be more than 2 inches. 

Let it air dry for 1-2 days before turning. 

Repeat until all the clippings dry.

You’ll know the clippings are dry when they turn golden in color.

Apply to your garden, ensuring to keep the grass mulch layer at less than an inch.

Step 4: Storing Grass Clippings

black garbage bags filled with grass clippings
If you aren’t ready to use your grass clippings to mulch your garden beds, you can store them in open garbage bags for as long as 2 years.

If you have some clippings left or aren’t ready to use them in your garden, store them in an open dry place or put them in a garbage bag depending on the climate.

Use your grass clippings within a year or two. 

Note: the longer you store the dry grass clippings, the more nutrients they lose. 

Grass Clippings as Mulch – Should you or shouldn’t you use them?

Pros of using grass clippings as mulch

  1. Save Money: If you already have a lawn, you will always have grass clippings as long as you mow. You won’t have to spend money on more expensive mulch such as straw. 
  2. Maintain Moisture: Although you still need to water your garden, the mulch layer slows down evaporation. So, moisture will be retained for longer and keep your plants from drying out.
  3. Fertilize Plants: Since the grass clippings mulch also acts as organic fertilizer once they decompose, you will need less fertilizer. The clippings are mainly known to be rich in phosphorous, potassium and nitrogen.
  4. Repel Slugs: Generally, slugs keep away from grass clippings. So, your plants will be safe.
  5. Prevent Disease: Mulch prevents water from splashing onto the leaves, especially when watering or when it rains. Keeping dirt and excess water away from the leaves helps prevent diseases.
  6. Keep Plants Cool: Apart from maintaining soil moisture, mulch regulates soil temperature. Your plants will appreciate this in fall and spring.

Cons of using grass clippings as mulch

  1. Can Contain Chemicals: Grass clippings with traces of pesticides are most likely to kill plants in your vegetable or flower garden. If you use any chemicals in your lawn, the grass clippings will absorb these chemicals and can harm your plants.
  2. Bad Smell if Not Dried Out: If you don’t spread out the grass well or apply it in your garden when still wet, you might have to deal with the foul smell of rotting clippings. So, make sure you allow the grass clippings to dry thoroughly before using.
  3. Gets Vegetables Dirty: Mulch is hard to separate from small greens. Therefore, might take you quite a while to sort your salad mix. The grass clippings can also get other things onto your veggies, so be sure to wash them thoroughly before eating.
  4. Can Introduce Weeds: Some grass clippings may contain weed seeds and they can be introduced into your flower or vegetable garden, causing a bit of a headache.

Frequently Asked Questions About Using Grass Clippings for Mulch (FAQs)

Should you use fresh or dried grass clippings as mulch?

It’s best to use dry lawn clippings as mulch.

Dry clippings will help suppress the weeds, allowing your plants to enjoy all the good nutrients, and moisture. 

If you use fresh grass clippings as mulch, be ready to deal with a foul-smelling slippery layer of grass in your garden during decomposition.

Fresh grass clippings also store a lot of heat. Therefore, they can easily burn your seedlings at the slightest chance of contact.

Is it safe to use grass clippings in vegetable gardens?

Yes, it’s safe to use grass clippings in your vegetable garden. However, ensure you prepare the mulch well to ensure your plants enjoy all the awesome benefits I mentioned earlier. 

Let the grass dry before using it in your garden. They help maintain moisture and allow enough oxygen to enter the soil. But if you must use fresh clippings, keep the layer at ¼ inch to allow it to break down with ease before it begins to rot. 

What if my grass was treated with chemicals?

Most broadleaf chemicals used on lawn grass react badly with vegetable crops. Moreover, it isn’t healthy to ingest chemicals that aren’t safe for human consumption. Therefore, avoid using grass clippings as mulch in your garden… especially if you recently sprayed herbicides in your lawn. 

How long does it take for grass clippings to decompose?

Grass clippings spread on your garden will averagely start decomposing in 3-4 weeks. It will take a further 1-2 weeks for them to be no longer visible. 

Can lawn clippings cause grass to grow in your flower beds?

Yes and No. Grass can grow from clippings only if some grass seeds got mixed up with the cut grass. Otherwise, without seed traces, the clippings will only decompose on the flower bed returning all their vital nutrients to the soil.

Wrapping Up

Using grass clippings as mulch will help maintain your garden’s soil moisture, temperature, and add nutrients to the soil. Besides, it’s free and easy to prepare. 

So, if you liked this article, check out these tips to prevent weeds from sucking the life out of your garden.

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