What To Do With Grass Clippings | 10 Smart Ways To Recycle Grass Clippings

Every lawn owner knows that cutting the grass regularly is a must for any yard, no matter how big or small it may be. Also, there’s simply no beating the aroma of freshly cut grass. Sadly, there is a catch!

After you mow your lawn and turn around to check the fruits of your labor, you will see that your yard is now covered in grass clippings. You may ask yourself, “What should I do with them?” Well, keep reading to find out where to dump grass clippings!

where to dump grass clippings

Grass clippings are a great source of nutrients, and they make a fantastic natural fertilizer.

Most Americans were able to simply toss their grass clippings in the trash for many years, but that is beginning to change. According to CompostingCouncil.org, over 15 states have banned yard waste from landfills as of June 2021. In the meantime, numerous other states are considering doing the same and implementing a similar ban. So, chances are you can no longer lawfully dispose of grass clippings or other yard debris in your garbage bin.

However, don’t be alarmed, and please, DO NOT stop mowing your lawn! Be a good friend to Mother Nature and put those grass clippings to good use instead of throwing them away!

Clippings are an excellent source of nutrients, and if you recycle them, you will have to use less fertilizer on your lawn. For instance, you can leave grass clippings that are an inch or shorter on your lawn, where they will decay and replenish the soil’s nutrients. However, if this is not your thing, you can compost them too! Just make sure that your grass clippings are free of any fungal spores or weed seeds.

That said, there is a lot more that you can do with your grass clippings.

Read on to find out!

Options For Getting Rid Of Grass Clippings

In 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States researched how homes in the United States were handling lawn clippings. 

They estimated that more than 35.4 million tons of trimmings were thrown away, which accounted for almost 12 percent of the total municipal solid trash produced in the country. However, as previously said, you may not be able to continue doing so! 

Therefore, finding another method to remove grass clippings from lawns is essential.

Luckily, you have quite a few options.

Make A Lasagna Garden

Make A Lasagna Garden

A lasagna garden is a low-maintenance organic gardening approach.

Have you been wanting to start a garden but worried about giving yourself a backache? Well, you can try cooking up a lasagna garden instead. Lasagna gardening is a form of organic gardening that does not need digging or tilling the soil and produces rich and fluffy soil with very little effort on the part of the grower, whatsoever. 

It’s a gardening method in which layers of organic matter are “cooked down” over time to produce nutrient-dense soil for the plants. 

Here is how you can use your grass clippings to create a lasagna garden.

  • The first thing you need to do is map out the boundaries of your lasagna garden. The garden bed’s outline can be created with rope, twine, or even a garden hose. Ensure that the location receives direct sunlight and is free of any large rocks or stones.
  • The next step is to cover the site with organic material. The initial layer should be twigs and branches. However, cardboard or newspaper also make an excellent bottom layer as they suffocate existing grass and weeds.
  • Next, add anywhere from two to six inches of “brown” materials, such as hay, wood chips, and dried leaves. This will provide nourishment for the worms, which are essential for the breakdown of the organic matter into the soil.
  • The “green” layer comes next. This is where you’ll put 1 to 2 inches of grass clippings, as well as plant cuttings, food scraps, and manure.
  • To discourage wildlife from inhabiting an area, continue to layer brown and green materials at a ratio of 2:1, capping off the process with a brown layer.
  • Continue to layer brown and green materials in a ratio of 2:1, finishing with a brown layer on top to discourage wildlife from using the area.
  • In most cases, you’ll only have to observe garden items “cook” and decompose. However, you will need to lightly irrigate the materials during an extended drought to prevent them from drying and speed decomposition.

These layers will begin to degrade after around four to five months, at which point they will form fertile soil that is ideal for planting. While a lasagna garden can be started at any time, it is best to get it going in the fall so that it is ready to use in the spring.

Related: Lawn Mowing Pattern & Techniques | Cut Your Grass Like A Pro

Give The Grass Clippings Back To Nature

Give The Grass Clippings Back To Nature

If you do not have any use for your grass clippings, give them to the animals.

If you have a rabbit, guinea pig, or turtle as a pet, you may make hay snacks out of your leftover grass clippings from the lawn and give the hay snacks to them to eat on. Here is how you can make a hay snack for your pets out of grass clippings:

  • Dry grass clippings by placing them in a thin layer.
  • To hasten the drying process, turn the grass every day.
  • That’s it. Just give it to your pets and don’t forget to say: bon appetit! 

Deer can be discouraged from damaging your vegetable garden by providing them with grass clippings in piles at the forest’s edge. This will give the deer something to graze on while you tend to your garden.

In addition, if you live on a farm or in close proximity to one, you may put your grass clippings to good use by giving them to livestock such as chickens, geese, cows, sheep, goats, and other poultry. However:

  • Only use grass clippings that have been recently cut.
  • Do not use wet grass clippings. They will quickly go bad and could make wildlife ill.
  • If you’ve used pesticides or herbicides, the clippings shouldn’t be fed to animals.

Use Grass Clippings To Make Tea For Your Plants

Use Grass Clippings To Make Tea For Your Plants

Grass clippings fertilizer tea is a fast and free way to give your plants a boost.

The technique of preparing grass clipping fertilizer tea is simple, can be completed in a short amount of time, and most importantly, it produces meaningful results. You can brew the fertilizer tea using grass clippings in drums and buckets in your garden or a more constrained area such as a balcony. Here is how to do it:

  • The grass clippings should fill up about a third of the bucket.
  • The remaining space in the bucket should be filled with water.
  • Put the bucket indoors or screen it to keep mosquitos away.
  • If indoors, store it in a shed or garage because it smells terrible.

After about two weeks, the grass-clipping tea you made will be ready to give to your plants and lawn to nourish them. You should combine some of it with the water in your watering can and then continue to water your plants as you normally would. However, again, be cautious about using pesticide- or herbicide-treated grass.

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Use Your Grass Clippings To Make Mulch

Use Your Grass Clippings To Make Mulch

Generally speaking, mulching garden beds with grass clippings is beneficial and healthy.

The use of mulch is essential in the creation of garden beds, as well as container gardens and landscaping in general. Did you know that when you mow your lawn, you end up with mounds of mulch that you can use for free? Mulching using grass clippings is an alternative that is advantageous on both an environmental and an economic level. The following steps will show you how to turn your grass clippings into mulch:

  • If the clippings are damp, you should let them dry.
  • Grass clippings that have been allowed to become wet may compact the soil, which will prevent oxygen and nutrients from reaching the plant roots.
  • Place a layer of grass clippings ranging from 1 to 2 inches thick all the way around the plants in your garden bed.
  • Wait until they have entirely decomposed before adding any additional components.

Do not use grass clippings as mulch if your lawn has recently been treated with a herbicide for dandelions or other broadleaf weeds. Doing so may cause damage to the plants you have in your garden. In addition, you should not use damp cuttings. 

When grass clippings become wet, they can clump together, blocking oxygen and water from the air from reaching the soil below. The clippings may undergo anaerobic decomposition if there is an inadequate supply of oxygen in the environment.

This process might result in the generation of unpleasant scents. Despite this, many positive aspects are associated with using mulch on your garden or lawn. 

Among them are the following:

  • It helps control the growth of weeds.
  • It plays a role in the preservation of soil moisture.
  • It helps regulate the temperature of the soil.
  • It does a better job of preventing soil erosion.

Related: Can I Mow Right After Aerating? | Mistakes That You Should Avoid!

Use Your Grass Clippings To Make Compost

Use Your Grass Clippings To Make Compost

Grass clippings can be composted in a compost pile just like any other nitrogen-rich material.

Composting is a common environmentally beneficial activity that reduces landfill yard waste. Composting includes organic debris (green and brown, including grass clippings) debris with a tiny amount of decomposing soil. Grass clippings are a great addition to a compost heap or bin since they have a high nitrogen content.

Here’s how to start a compost pile or bin in your lawn, yard, or garden:

  • Find a spot in your yard that gets plenty of shade and is out of the way of any areas where the scent of the compost could bother you or your neighbors.
  • If you use a container to make your compost, you need to ensure that its sides are perforated so that air can flow through. 
  • However, if you are going to build a compost pile, ensure there is enough room around it. It should have a minimum surface area of 25 square feet.
  • When you add new layers of compost, supplement the decomposition process with little amounts of water. This will speed things up.

However, using only grass clippings as compost material is not recommended. A heavy layer of grass clippings will produce unpleasant odors due to anaerobic decomposition. Combine them with other dry components such as straws and leaves. Also, don’t compost grass clippings if you recently sprayed herbicide or your lawn is unhealthy.

However, if everything is good, here is how you can use grass clippings in a compost pile.

  • Put grass clippings in the compost container or on the compost pile.
  • Next, add dry compostable leaves, cardboard, or shredded paper.
  • Mix the contents well using a pitchfork or a garden rake.
  • Turn it over once every several days to ensure that it decomposes quickly.

Recycle Your Grass Clippings

Recycle Your Grass Clippings

If you mow your lawn regularly, you can reduce the time you spend maintaining your yard by leaving the grass clippings where they fall after each mowing. This activity is referred to as “grasscycling.” Grass cycling is most effective when you cut the grass frequently and while the blades are dry. Grass can be chopped into even smaller bits with the help of a mulching mower, which can be purchased for a reasonable price.

Nevertheless, you can keep your grass clippings if they are shorter than an inch. They will work as a natural fertilizer as they break down, adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil and making your lawn more robust and healthier as it grows. And, aside from the obvious benefits of not having to spend time manually gathering and bagging the clippings, your lawn will also benefit from the free fertilizer.

Some major benefits of leaving grass clippings on your lawn include:

  • It cuts the time needed to mow by between 30 and 38 percent.
  • It supports beneficial microorganisms, insects, and earthworms.
  • It maintains a consistent temperature in the soil.
  • It helps the soil hold onto more water.
  • It makes the soil aeration better.
  • It can cut fertilizer use by as much as 25%.

Do Not Leave Grass Clippings On The Lawn If:

  • If it is unsafe to use your mower without a bagging attachment, then the bag must remain attached to the mower.
  • If clippings accumulate along the curb or gutter. Also, if grass clippings are washed down the storm drain, they might pollute local water sources.
  • If the lawn is damp or the grass is excessively thick, the clippings might stick together and suffocate the grass if you mow.
  • If the grass is badly infected with diseases like leaf spots, rust, or dollar spot, then leaving grass clippings can spread the disease.
  • If the cuttings are longer than half an inch. Long grass clippings are ugly and can suffocate and damage growing grass.

Reuse & Recycle

Reuse & Recycle

You can also call your local recycling center to see if they accept yard waste or grass clippings.

Even if none of the aforementioned possibilities work for you, you can still reduce the amount of waste produced by your yard by recycling the grass clippings. For example, you can contact your local recycling facility to inquire about their grass recycling policy. 

There are some municipalities that will take yard garbage, but there are others that will not. Also, some places may only collect yard garbage on particular days, so you may need to schedule your mowing accordingly.

Call A Friend & See If They Need Grass Clippings!

If They Need Grass Clippings

Before throwing grass clippings away, call your friends. They might be able to put them to good use!

You could have a buddy who could use some grass clippings for any of the reasons that have been mentioned above. Make inquiries, and let people know that you have plenty for everyone to share. Place an ad on Craigslist offering free grass clippings collection from the street. If you are a marketing whiz, you can spin it as a “Choose Your Own Adventure,” and then you can relax and let someone else mow the grass for you.

Make A Grass Dye

Make A Grass Dye

You can also make a great green dye from your grass clippings at home.

The grass is a terrific natural dye because it is long-lasting, a characteristic we all regret when it gets on our prized jeans. However, a mordant must be used to achieve colorfastness, as with most natural dyes. It’s possible to achieve a wide range of colors, from light to deep, and even green, by adjusting the amount of mordant used. Also, you need freshly cut grass if you plan on experimenting with creating dye from grass clippings.

Give The Grass Clippings To Farmers & Gardeners

Give The Grass Clippings To Farmers & Gardeners

If you look hard enough, you may find local farms or greenhouses seeking green compost materials.

There are probably many gardening businesses in your neighborhood that would be more than happy to take the grass clippings off your hands. You won’t have to pay anything extra, but you will probably have to transport the grass clippings to the company on your own.

Despite this, it is a very hassle-free and accessible method for getting rid of grass clippings that anyone may use. Your grass clippings can be used as compost in community gardens and farms if you donate them. 

Getting in touch with the people who could benefit from your grass trimmings is simple. They will be grateful to you for giving them the grass clippings, which may be used in various ways. Local businesses may also be interested in receiving your grass cuttings, so you might want to check into that too.

Myth: Do Grass Clippings Increase Thatch?

Do Grass Clippings Increase Thatch

The solid rake sometimes referred to as a landscape rake, is the first and greatest tool for clearing thatch.

Thatch is a layer of organic matter that has not been degraded and that grows up between the surface of the soil and the green plant that is actively developing. 

It is a common misconception that grass clippings are responsible for the development of thatch in a yard. However, this is not the case. Since grass clippings are mostly water, they biodegrade quickly. They decompose far too quickly to be turned into thatch. 

Long cuttings may contain wiry stems that decompose more slowly than other plant matter, but they do not still make a substantial contribution to the accumulation of thatch.

The buildup of thatch is typically the result of insufficient mowing, excessive application of nitrogen fertilizer, and depleted oxygen levels in the soil. It manifests itself when the plant matter grows at a rate greater than the rate at which dead grasses may degrade.

Final Thoughts

If you want a natural way to maintain the nutrients in your lawn, you should let your grass clippings decompose so that the minerals can be recycled. 

As long as you maintain your grass trimmed, the tiny clippings won’t show up too much, and you’ll be able to improve your turf’s thickness naturally. The end effect is a lush, verdant lawn of which you can be genuinely proud. 

Even though there is less of it, grass clippings still deliver essential elements such as nitrogen and potassium to the growing grass. 

So, these frequent tiny feedings may not deliver the rapid green-up, but it is a natural technique to attain the same long-term benefit and is also free.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best thing to do with grass clippings?

One of the best things you can do for your grass is to return grass clippings to the lawn. This will cut down on the amount of fertilizer you need and provide your grass with a minuscule but immediate boost in its nutrient content. If you do not want to do that, you can mulch or compost your lawn clippings instead.

Is it good to leave grass clippings on the lawn?

Simply said, grass clippings benefit lawns by acting as a natural fertilizer. This is true unless you’ve allowed your yard to become too long or the grass clippings are clumped together. Grass clippings that are too long can build up into a thick layer on the grass’s surface, preventing nutrients, air, and water from reaching the grass roots.

Do grass clippings cause weeds?

Grass clippings do not cause weeds, although they could aggravate the issue. A lawn that is overgrown with weeds may spread its seeds while you mow. Therefore, you should bag your grass cuttings if your yard has weeds. Bagging grass clippings can assist in keeping annual weed seeds (such as crabgrass) from spreading into your lawn.

How long does it take grass clippings to decompose?

After a lawn has been mowed, the grass clippings that are left on the lawn will begin to decompose in around three to four weeks on average.

Grass cuttings normally vanish into the soil within a week or two, at which time they are no longer visible from above. However, if you put the clippings in the compost, it will take between one and three months for them to entirely disintegrate.

Is it Ok to put grass clippings around trees?

In general, spreading mulch around flowers, vegetables, shrubs, plants, and trees is beneficial for preventing the growth of weeds, preserving moisture, and regulating the temperature of the soil. However, you shouldn’t use more than an inch or two of grass clippings as mulch at a time.

Sources For Further Reading

What to do with lawn clippings. (2022). Retrieved 8 September 2022, from https://extension.umn.edu/lawncare/what-do-lawn-clippings

Recycle Your Grass Clippings. (2017). Retrieved 8 September 2022, from https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/know-how-know-more/2017-04-18-recycle-your-grass-clippings

Grasscycling: Let the Clippings Fall Where They May. (2022). Retrieved 8 September 2022, from https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C1031&title=Grasscycling:%20Let%20the%20Clippings%20Fall%20Where%20They%20May

Grass Clippings, C. (2022). Grass Clippings, Compost, and Mulch: Questions and Answers. Retrieved 8 September 2022, from https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/g6958

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