Ways To Use Grass Clippings as Mulch

wheelbarrow full of grass clippings

There’s nothing better than a lush, thick, manicured lawn. A freshly cut lawn provides your home curb appeal and smells divine to boot. But keeping your grass beautiful comes with inevitable yard waste. Instead of tossing your grass clippings after mowing, why not use them in your yard? 

There are multiple ways to use grass clippings as mulch so you can give back to Mother Nature, save on landfill waste, have a breathtaking lawn, and reap the benefits of a robust garden.

Ways To Use Grass Clippings as Mulch

1. Grasscycling

What Is grasscycling?

The process of grasscycling is a great way to benefit your lawn while cutting down on lawn maintenance. After mowing, instead of gathering the clippings, simply leave your lawn clippings where they lay and move on with your day.

Contrary to popular belief, grass clippings don’t cause thatch buildup, but they must not be too long. If left on the lawn, they’ll quickly decompose and provide plenty of perks while doing it.

How to do grasscycling

To be successful with grasscycling, you must mow your lawn correctly. This means:

  • Sticking to the recommended grass cutting height for your type of grass
  • Only mowing when the grass is dry to avoid damage and discoloration
  • Only cutting with a sharp lawn mower blade
  • Mowing every five to seven days
  • Timing the mowing just right to only remove about a third of the grass blades

If too much time has passed between mowings, don’t cut too much off the first time. Instead, raise the mowing height for the initial cut, and lower it gradually with the following mowings. 

Scatter the fresh grass clippings evenly across the entire lawn with a rake or leaf blower, preventing clumps. Repeat the process with garden plants, flower, vegetable, and fruit beds.

Grass TypeSuggested Mowing Height
Centipedegrass1 to 2 inches
Bermudagrass1 to 2 inches
St. Augustinegrass2 to 3 inches
Zoysiagrass1 to 2 inches
Tall Fescue2 to 3 inches
Kentucky bluegrass2 to 3 inches
Perennial ryegrass1 to 2 inches

Why grasscycling is beneficial

With grasscycling, you’re looking at impressive benefits for your yard. These include:

  • Saves time and money. Your yard maintenance time and effort will significantly be reduced, and you won’t have to spend a dime. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
  • No thatch to deal with. You can rest easy knowing that grass clippings won’t create a mountain of thatch for you to remove. Rather, they’ll decompose quickly right where you leave them.
  • Return essential nutrients to your soil. As they decompose, grass clippings provide the soil with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium needed for optimal soil and grass health. The process can take about a week, but reducing fertilizing needs by up to 25% is worth it.
  • Conserve water. With the clippings acting as a layer of mulch, your lawn will naturally retain moisture, reducing watering frequency.
  • Reduce weeds. That’s right, grass clippings can be weed killers.
  • Maintains soil temperature. The clippings keep the soil temperature even.

Tips for grasscycling

While grasscycling can help your lawn grow and stay healthier, it isn’t recommended in the following cases:

  • Your clippings are too long: Not only will long clippings laying all over your lawn look bad, but they’ll also smother your turfgrass, causing damage instead of promoting healthy growth.
  • Your lawn is affected by disease: If you’re dealing with lawn disease, don’t practice grasscycling. First diagnose and fix the problem. Otherwise, the problem will spread to your entire lawn, making it more difficult to fix your grass.
  • Your clippings could contaminate a water source: If there’s no way to keep clippings from entering a nearby waterway, skip grasscycling.

2. Composting

infographic showing the materials used in composting. Including the most common brown and green options.
Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

What is composting?

Another excellent way to use grass clippings is to add them to your compost. Composting is an increasingly popular, eco-friendly method of minimizing landfill waste while promoting soil fertility and health. Simply put, compost is a mixture of dark, organic matter that has been decomposed by organisms in the soil and has acquired an earthy smell. This matter can include:

  • Carbon-containing materials such as twigs, leaves, various plant stalks, shredded paper bags and cardboard
  • Nitrogen-containing materials such as grass clippings and food and vegetable leftovers, crushed eggshells, staple-free paper tea bags, paper coffee filters and coffee grounds, and yard trim
  • Water
  • Air

Grass clippings shouldn’t be composted on their own. Due to the high level of nitrogen present in grass, you’ll end up with foul smells. To accelerate decomposition and reduce odors, mix the clippings with other dry yard waste, such as straw or leaves.

How to compost

wooden box compost bin overflowing with grass clippings, in a yard
Pavel Ševela | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

To compost grass clippings, you’ll need to:

  • Select a location in your yard that has enough shade and is suitable for composting. The smell shouldn’t bother you or your neighbors.
  • Decide whether you want to use a compost bin or start a compost pile. The container (be it a slatted wooden box or a wire mesh bin) should have holes for air circulation, while a compost pile should have plenty of space around it. Aim for at least 25 square feet.
  • Add your clippings to the container or pile, mixing it with leaves, cardboard, or any other dry material. Turn the mixture every few days to ensure even decomposition.
  • For every layer of compost you add, pour some water to accelerate the breakdown process.

Why composting is beneficial

The organic matter present in compost has many benefits:

  • Alters the composition of heavy clay soils, binding the soil particles and making the soil more manageable 
  • Aids with water and nutrient retention in sandy soils
  • Helps with aeration, water infiltration, and root penetration

Tips for composting

Don’t compost your grass clippings if you’ve sprayed them with herbicide or pesticide or if your lawn has diseases.

3. Mulching

Landscaper spreads straw on lawn as mulch

What is mulching?

Mulching is a widely-known gardening technique meant to keep soil healthy and moist. It involves covering the soil with various “mulches,” such as leaves, wood chips, bark, twigs, and other yard waste. 

Mulching can help your landscaping look beautiful and stay healthy – the eco-friendly way. With grass clippings, you have unlimited access to free mulch, which in turn helps your lawn, vegetable garden, and flower beds. 

How to mulch

For grass clipping mulch, you’ll need to:

  • Mow your lawn, remove the clippings, and apply them wherever you need mulch in your yard.
  • Use about 1 to 2 inches of clippings and wait for them to decompose before adding more as needed. 

Why mulching is beneficial

You can’t go wrong with mulch. Not only does it prevent weed growth, but it also stops soil erosion and regulates soil temperature. Plus, mulch boosts your home’s curb appeal and helps conserve water due to its moisture retention properties.

Tips for mulching

Don’t use grass clippings as mulch if they’ve been sprayed with herbicide.

4. Lasagna gardening

illustration explaining how the lasagna gardening method
Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

What is lasagna gardening?

Similar to the namesake dish, lasagna gardening makes use of food scraps, paper, and other waste to build layers of nutrient-rich soil ideal for successful planting later on. The process doesn’t involve digging or tilling, simply having a plot of land available to use. A big plus with lasagna gardening is that it requires little physical effort and can be performed by people of all ages and mobility levels. Another is that it’s environmentally friendly.

How to do lasagna gardening

The steps you need to follow are:

  • Select the section of land you want to use and define its borders.
  • Grab the necessary tools: gloves, a shovel, and a hose.
  • Start layering by alternating between dry leaves, newspaper, straw, peat moss, and other “brown” materials and “green” materials like grass clippings, vegetable leftovers, and yard waste. Use moist materials to ensure decomposition. In scorching, dry weather, you can use your hose to water the materials as you go along.
  • Continue piling until you reach a planting bed at least two feet tall. Within a few weeks, the organic materials will cook, thin out, and be ready for planting.
  • Treat the planting bed as normal soil and dig into it with your shovel to make room for your plants. Tougher materials, such as newspaper or cardboard, may need to be cut out to make room.
  • Maintain the lasagna garden by watering, weeding, and mulching as needed. Grass clippings and leaves are ideal mulch materials you’ll always have on hand, making the process simple and efficient.

Why lasagna gardening is beneficial

garden using sheet mulching, aka lasagna gardening
Ryan | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

A lasagna garden is chock full of benefits for your plants and Mother Nature. Here’s what you can expect from this type of garden soil:

  • Water conservation. The materials you use naturally retain moisture, which means you won’t have to get your watering hose out as often as you would for your regular soil.
  • Reduced fertilization. Lasagna gardens are made with nutrient-rich organic matter, reducing the need for fertilization on your part.
  • Workable soil. The point of lasagna gardening is to create rich, healthy, malleable soil that will make the planting process easier.
  • Weed control. Lasagna gardening allows for a weed-free planting bed, all thanks to the mulch on top and the cardboard, newspaper, or other tough materials used to layer.

Tips for lasagna gardening

Keep these rules in mind when building a lasagna garden:

  • Avoid using anything that is pest or disease-infested. You’ll only spread the problem and have headaches down the road.
  • Likewise, avoid using dairy or meat products. These attract both pests and wildlife, something you’ll definitely want to avoid.
  • The organic matter you use shouldn’t contain any weed seeds, as these will sprout in your lasagna garden before you can plant anything.
  • Continue adding brown and green materials to your garden every year. Ideally, you should aim to do this in the fall, as you’ll have plenty of leaves, twigs, and other materials at your disposal.
  • Use wood chips to keep leaves and other lighter materials from flying away.
  • Your lasagna garden should be located in direct sunlight, with little to no shade.

Additional Uses for Grass Clippings

person dumping grass clippings in a yard
Sligar | Canva Pro | License

The benefits of grass clippings don’t end there. Here are a few other uses for grass clippings:

  • Top dress any garden beds for extra moisture, weed prevention, soil compaction reduction, and yummy nutrients. Spread the clippings as mulch wherever needed, replenishing the pile as it decomposes.
  • Donate your clippings to a local community garden to be used for composting or other purposes. Alternatively, ask your neighbors if they need grass clippings.
  • Use grass clippings to make organic fertilizer that is safe and useful for your lawn and plants. Simply add the clippings to a bucket and fill it with water, leaving it to steep for a few days. Follow up by straining the mixture to remove the clippings and be left with the liquid. Spray your lawn with the liquid fertilizer or pour it around any flower or plant root system.
  • Feed your grass clippings to any chickens, geese, cows, sheep, goats, or other animals on or near your property. Make sure they’re fresh and herbicide- and pesticide-free to avoid making the animals sick. Rabbits and guinea pigs love to snack on hay, so dry your grass clippings and put them to good use.
  • Reach out to a recycling center near you and ask about the policy on recycling grass. You may be able to put them in your recycling bin to be collected as green waste.

FAQ about using grass clippings as mulch

What is a mulching mower?

Mulching mowers, also called rotary mowers, are designed to cut grass clippings and evenly distribute them across the lawn, which regular mowers don’t do as efficiently. Remember to only remove one-third of the grass blade when mowing your lawn.

Should I cover a compost pile?

Compost piles can be covered with plastic to ensure an optimal moisture level. If the pile is soggy to begin with, avoid covering it, as this will worsen the problem.

How long do I need to wait for my grass clippings to decompose?

Grass clippings generally decompose within a few weeks if left on the lawn. In a compost pile, it will usually take a few months.

Don’t Toss Them – Reuse Them

Leftover grass clippings can be an eyesore, but they’re an excellent source of nutrients for your soil. Used right, grass clippings can fertilize your lawn, reduce weeds, maintain optimal soil temperatures, and retain necessary moisture.
That said, lawn care can be a lot of work, and you may not be up for it. In that case, why not call a local top-rated expert for professional services and guidance? Your yard will look like a million bucks, and you’ll get plenty of compliments along the way.

Main Image Credit: Shutterstock

Kimberly Magerl

Kimberly Magerl is a writer and data analyst specializing in landscaping, gardening, lawn care, and pest control. She enjoys growing orchids, tending to fruits and vegetables in her garden, and getting outdoors. A resident of Texas, when she isn't gardening, Kimberly enjoys trying new recipes and cooking with her home-grown herbs.