Lifestyles

A Gardener's Diary: Grass clippings put to good use

Looks like we’re in for some fantastic weather. After all the rain we had, the lawns are green everywhere and need cutting more often. I see a lot of grass clippings on the side of the road for garbage day. If the grass is cut once a week, it is sound practice to leave the clippings right on the lawn so that they may become natural humus as they would under field conditions.

Sometimes the growth is heavy or rain prevents regular cutting, so that leaving a heavy crop of clippings would lead to wads of yellow hay covering parts of the lawn. In that case, bag it or rake the material up and add it to the compost heap as part of the green matter. Don’t remove all grass clippings. Some can and should be left as occasional replenishment for the lawn itself. Dried green grass has nitrogen, phosphorous and potash content.

Grass clippings can play an important role in soil improvement. As a rich source of nitrogen, the clippings should be utilized to the utmost. There are three excellent ways in which they can be put to work in the garden and flower beds. They may be used as a mulch, they may be turned in as green manure and they may be used in the compost heap to create the heat necessary for good decomposition.

As a mulch, lawn clippings surpass most materials. They are easy to handle, will remain in place nicely, will fit in the smallest spaces with no trouble, and when dried, will give your rows and beds a neat appearance. Of course you will not have enough mulch for your entire garden from the first cutting, but mulch as much as you can each week. Because they are so finely chopped, the clippings disappear completely into the soil by fall. Green mulch may temporarily rob the soil of available nitrogen, including both ammonia and nitrates. But this condition is so short-lived that it will not stunt the rapid growth of the plants.

Late in the season, you may have a surplus of grass clippings on your hands. If you have empty space in the garden, scatter a few inches of green clippings over the entire area. Turn these in immediately as green manure along with the previously applied mulch. Work a small plot at a time, depending upon the amount of excess clippings on hand. Later, you may remulch the entire area and allow it to remain until the following spring. When used as green manure, grass clippings greatly improve the physical condition of heavy-textured soils. They also provide much-needed humus and nitrogen.

A third use of grass clippings is to incorporate them into the compost pile to give necessary heat for proper decomposition. This was taken from The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. If you are using grass clippings in your garden, make sure that they are not sprayed with pesticides and insecticides.

In the spring, I cannot wait for the first mowing to go in the compost that has been sitting there all winter doing nothing. With some of the shredded leaves added and mixed with the old compost, I usually have my pile heating up within a couple of days to more than 135 F. Don’t leave a pile of clippings on the ground unless you spread it to dry. A pile will heat up in no time and will be smelly and slimy. Organic grass clippings should never go to the landfill as they are too valuable.

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