Mulching grass clippings is a great way to get rid of those unwanted grass clippings, they can be added to other organic material from the garden to produce high-quality mulch to help reduce weeds, retain moisture and provide nutrients. I’ve put this article together to explain all about mulching and how it can be used to help you and your yard.
Table of Contents
What Is Mulch?
Mulch is any substance placed over the soil as a covering. The main reason for mulching is to keep sunlight away from soil to reduce moisture loss. Mulch helps lock in moisture in the soil and saves on water. Mulch application is often best during spring. During the growing season, one can add mulch as needed.
There are two main types of mulch – organic and inorganic. Organic mulches include materials that once lived, such as grass clippings, leaves, shredded bark, pine, sawdust, and even paper.
Organic mulch breaks down and helps enrich the soil, but the materials do not last long because of the decomposition. Inorganic mulches include pebbles, gravel or rocks, rubber mulch, and plastic sheeting. Inorganic mulches do not decompose; therefore, they last longer. However, they tend to raise the temperature of the soil. They work best around plants that do not require a lot of water.
If you’re new to mulching, you may be wondering why a pile of dirt is good for your plants. Mulching comes with a ton of benefits for you and for your plants.
For example, if you hate weeding, mulch will help you prevent those stubborn weeds from getting enough sunlight and growing. Your plants will not have to compete for nutrients and water.
Mulching Prevents the Growth of Weeds
Removing weeds is not one of the pleasant parts of gardening. These pesky intruders compete for resources against your plants. It’s no surprise then that preventing the growth of weeds is one of the main reasons people mulch.
Letting weeds grow out of control next to your plants is not suitable for them. Just like plants, weeds need sunlight to grow. When the soil is uncovered, weeds can receive all the sunlight they need, which helps them sprout. Mulch prevents direct sunlight from touching the weeds, and as a result, weeds cannot grow.
Preventing weeds from growing by blocking the sun from reaching the weeds helps avoid competition between weeds and plants. When weeds grow uncontrollably, they compete with other plants for the nutrients in the soil. The competition between weeds and plants prevents crops from growing healthy.
Mulching Prevents Soil Erosion
What’s gardening without soil? Erosion is the displacement of topsoil caused by water, wind, or agricultural activities such as tillage. Since mulching involves placing materials over the soil, mulch helps prevent or control soil erosion because it covers the topsoil.
Mulch protects soil from the agents of soil erosion. For instance, when it rains, rainwater does not hit the soil; thus, soil erosion does not occur. Mulch also reduces the speed of the wind, preventing wind erosion.
Mulching Reduces Water Loss
When direct sunlight hits the soil, the water in the soil evaporates, causing loss of moisture in the soil. Mulch helps reduce water loss by reducing evaporation.
The covering prevents sunlight from hitting the soil, and without sunlight, evaporation cannot occur. Mulch encourages water infiltration into the soil and discourages evaporation.
Mulch Gives the Soil Nutrients
Providing nutrients to the soil is another major advantage of mulch. This advantage applies to organic mulch and not the inorganic mulch. As mentioned earlier, organic mulches decompose. When you use organic mulch, the decaying material provides the soil with much-needed nutrients, thus, improving its richness. Crops grown on such soil grow healthy.
Mulch Helps With the Regulation of Soil Temperature
When the weather is cold, mulch helps keep the soil warm; and when the weather is hot, it helps keep the soil cool.
Mulch regulates the temperature of the soil such that the soil does not at one point become too cold or too hot. Major soil temperature variations can cause severe negative effects on crops and other organic entities living in the soil.
Mulch Encourages the Activities of Important Organisms
Organisms such as earthworms are important to the soil since they offer several benefits. Such organisms increase the availability of nutrients in the soil, create a steady soil structure, and improve the drainage—all these help with improving land productivity.
Mulch provides a favorable environment for such organisms to function, and as a result, they can comfortably offer the soil the many benefits.
Nevertheless, everything with a good side has a bad side.
Disadvantages of Mulching
Irrespective of the many benefits that come with mulching, if not properly applied, you’ll have to encounter some demerits. Here are some disadvantages of mulching that you may come across.
Certain Types of Mulch Can Introduce Weed Into Your Land
The introduction of new weed usually happens when you decide to use some types of mulches like grass that can spread weed seeds into your farm or garden.
Mulching Can Be Expensive
Applying mulch in a large area is expensive. Some materials such as leaves are easy to find, but you will need to buy other mulches such as bark mulch from your local tree nursery or even your neighbor.
Apart from needing to invest quite an amount of money in mulch, you will also need to use your energy, or someone else’s in the application. Applying mulch on a large piece of land is tedious, and many times one person is not enough. You need a lot of labor for a large piece of land, and you also need a lot of material.
What this means is that you need a reasonable amount of capital and energy to apply mulch on a large farm or garden.
Mulch Can Harbor Harmful Pests and Diseases
Mulch provides a favorable breeding environment that pests and diseases usually like, and as such, they can comfortably breed in large numbers. Pests and diseases may harm crops.
In some cases, some types of mulch release toxic chemicals into the soil. Rubber mulch is an example of mulch that can end up releasing toxic chemicals into the soil. When gardening edible plants and vegetable beds, it is best to stay away from such mulch as it poses a health hazard to your crops.
Some Organic Mulch Might Contain Pests and Diseases
Organic mulches might contain pests and diseases. If you mulch your land with material containing some pests and diseases, they will transfer them to your land and terrorize your garden.
Over Mulching Can Have A Negative Impact
Using mulch on your land is often a good decision, but remember that over mulching is a thing. Over mulching will negatively affect your plants and land.
Many times, two inches of mulch in the spring is enough to help your garden retain moisture and reduce weeds’ growth. Using more than two inches can sometimes suffocate the roots of your plants.
Excessive mulch can also encourage soggy soil, and that will encourage plant diseases. Therefore, make sure you measure the right amount of mulch before applying. There are experts available for you to consult, and the internet is also full of information that you can use.
How to Make Mulch?
After learning about the several advantages and disadvantages of mulching, you might be asking yourself, how do I make mulch?
How to Make Grass Clippings Mulch
Using a mulching lawn mower, cut your grass. After mowing, leave the grass clipping on the lawn to dry. Turn them several times to ensure they dry uniformly and completely.
After that, spread a two-inch layer on the soil you want to mulch. Make sure you put the mulch between your plants and not on the plants. If you are mulching around trees, ensure you put the mulch 4 inches away from the trunks.
How to Make Leaf Mulch
Leafy trees are a common scene in many homes, and you will not have a hard time finding leaves lying on the ground. You can gather the leaves which fall during the autumn season using a rake, or you can choose to prune off plants.
Stay away from using leaves from eucalyptus and walnut trees if you are mulching a garden. These leaves can interfere with the growth of plants.
Using a leaf blower or the rake you used to collect the leaves, assemble the leaves on a flat area. You need to spread out the leaves into a layer that should not be more than two inches thick. If you do not have a blower or a rake, you can use a shovel and wheelbarrow to collect the leaves.
Once you have finished piling up the leaves in a thin layer, get your lawn mower (or borrow someone’s), and use it to mow over the leaves. Do that until you chop the leaves into fine pieces.
Shredding is crucial because it helps the leaves decompose and, in turn, helps the soil gain nutrients. If you cannot access a lawn mower, you can use a leaf shredder.
Once you have finished shredding the leaves, use them as mulch on your preferred area, ensuring that you do not use too much mulch. You can store the remaining mulch in a mulching bag with air holes, or in an aired barrel.
When bagging your mulch, you must ensure that your mulch remains dry while in the bag. To allow that, poke some holes in the bag so that air can circulate and allow the mulch to remain dry.
Remember that the longer you store your mulch, the more nutrients it will lose, and if you store your mulch in an area with no ventilation, it will ferment and afterward release pH poisons that are damaging to plants.
What Is a Mulching Lawn Mower?
Everyone knows a lawn mower is a machine used the lawn. The machine can either be motor-driven or hand-driven.
A mulching lawn mower is also a machine for cutting grass, but unlike a regular lawn mower, it does not have a box and double cuts grass into fine pieces that can easily disappear into the lawn.
With a regular lawn mower, you need to keep emptying the box, but with a mulching lawn mower, you save time since there is no box to empty. A mulching lawn mower also eliminates the need for you to rake and bag the grass clippings. Mulching A Lawn
When it comes to mulching the lawn, you should always mulch back the lawn clipping into your lawn. With this, you won’t need to rake, haul, or bag the leaves or the grass clippings. However, if you’re not planning to mulch it just yet, you can opt to bag the grass clippings for future use.
If you’re into mulching, you’ll note that mulching is best done with a mulching mower, which is just a regular lawn mower but with extra modifications to make it easier for you to mulch. Also, you can procure mulching kits that can enable you to modify your traditional mower into a mulching mower.
A mulching mower has special blades with additional cutting edges that enable it to cut the mulch into the desired sizes and clippings for easy use as mulch. Also, it comes with a baffling underneath the mower with a blocked chute to allow the clippings to be cut further and be distributed easily on your lawn.
Grass clippings consist mostly of water and rarely cause thatch buildup once it’s used as mulch. You don’t need to worry about trimmings created after mowing your lawn. With a mulch lawn mower, you can turn this waste into mulch and enjoy the numerous benefits that come with using organic mulch in your yard.