Using Grass Mowings as a Mulch in the Vegetable and Flower Garden

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Green Waste Recycling By Councils Is Now On Hold In Many Areas, But Green Waste, Such as Lawn Clippings, is a Valuable Commodity We Can Use To Mulch & Feed Our Gardens. Here’s How To Use Using Grass Mowings as a Mulch

Using Grass Mowings as a Mulch: Growing Leeks Through Grass Mowings
Using Grass Mowings as a Mulch: Growing Leeks Through Grass Mowings

Nature is fed by recycling waste. As trees shed leaves and branches fungi break them down and recycle the nutrients back into the soil. It’s the perfect recycling system and is why woodlands and jungles are so biodiverse.

However, though we can follow this basic concept and recycle our garden waste via compost bins or by applying to direct to the soil there are “rules” we need to observe.

Firstly, if we deposit a large pile of grass mowings on the soil it will form an anaerobic heap of sludge that prevents air from reaching the soil. Earthworms cannot easily recycle the sludge and nature abhors such practices.

But if we spread grass clippings thinly, earthworms will pull it into the soil and feed the soil with their wormcasts. Wormcasts are nutrient-rich and wonderful for plant growth. Fungi will also utilise the organic matter and help decompose it. In so doing they create a wonderful mycelial network as their hyphae spread by using growth pressure and chemical attack!

So the trick must be to use grass clipping sparingly. Scatter them at a depth where they are not going to form sludge and suffocate the soil.

Around well-established plants, eg rhubarb, raspberries etc a slightly deeper layer will aid moisture retention and deplete weeds of light, hence suppressing them. But again leave areas where there is no grass to ensure that air can still penetrate the soil. In a few weeks, after the first batch of clippings has started to break down we can then fill in the areas that were clear. Little and often works well in these circumstances.

Using Green Waste Mulches Around Small Plants and Seedlings

Grass around seedlings and small plants are different in that we need even more caution.

In my new No Dig garden I’ve covered the soil in cardboard to suppress the weeds and then put a shallow layer of grass mowings over the top before planting. I actually waited a week before starting to plant the plug plants and they are doing really well a few days later.

My method has been to use a dibber to punch holes through the mowings and cardboard and plant in the soil below. I’ve planted leeks as they seem more tolerant of this practice. Being upright growing and a bit tougher with a strong root system undoubtedly helps.

As can be seen from the image the leeks are multi-seed compost plugs and, being quite open and friable, the compost allows sufficient air exchange. Its oxygen that plants need at their roots or they will suffocate.

Multi-seeded-Leeks-Growing-Through-a-Grass-Mulch
Leeks growing through a grass mulch

Grass Mowings as Nutrients

Grass clippings are nutrient-rich with an NPK* ratio of 4 – 0.5 – 2. They also contain other plant nutrients plus trace elements. AS they rot they will initially consume soil nitrogen but once rotted will slowly release it back to the plants. Its this form of feeding the soil the benefits the plants. * Nitrogen Phosphates, Potash.

Avoid Herbicide Treated Grass Mowings When Mulching

The simple rule here is that any grass mowings that have had any herbicide applied to the grass in the last 6-12 months need avoiding, especially if clopyralid and picloram treated. Both stunt growth at best, and kill plants at worse.

Any herbicide treated grass can be composted but needs holding back a couple of years before being used.

Grass Mowings Are a Golden Gift

One upside of the green waste collection being stopped is that my neighbours are now giving me with grass mowing. They leave them out for me to collect on a regular basis and they are a gift from heaven. Wealth today isn’t measured in money. It’s measured in grass clippings I can mulch with.

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What is Mulch?

Mulches used in the garden to suppress weeds and conserve moisture. They can consist of sheets of materials such as cardboard or loose material such as compost or grass clippings. Mulches also feed the soil which in turn feed the plants. Mulches also benefit earthworms and soil fungi. Plus they improve soil structure which is able to form a matrix of humus, moisture, air spaces and, of course, mineral particles.
Discover More At Our Using Grass Mowings as a Mulch postMulti-seeded-Leeks-Growing-Through-a-Grass-Mulch

Are Mulches Always Organic?

Usually but not always. For example, plastic may be laid over the soil to suppress weeds, but being impervious it will not let the rain through and does not do much to improve soil fertility or structure.
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