In the Garden:
Middle South
April, 2003
Regional Report

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Forget-me-nots, Shirley poppies, and foxgloves benefit from a frame of fresh green grass clippings. Later, I'll mulch between the plants with more clippings.

Grass Clipping Clinic

Experts say that my half-acre lawn will produce three tons of clippings in a year. That's good news to me because grass clippings are an essential piece in my garden's puzzle. Here's how I make the most of all the good green stuff my lawn provides.

A Chemical-Free Lawn
Except for some lime and a little fertilizer in spring and fall, my lawn prospers without chemicals. When weeds crop up, I remove them by hand, and the grass is so vigorous that insects are not a problem. Because my clippings are chemical free, I can use them freely in my garden with no fear of side effects. Or I let them rot where they fall. Earthworms thrive in the soil beneath the grass, chowing down on clippings and old stolons that might otherwise become thatch. When clippings are returned to the soil via earthworm activity, they reduce the amount of fertilizer a lawn needs by about 25 percent.

Hot Clipping Compost
Most of my grass clippings get recycled directly into the lawn, but sometimes I hook up my bagger and harvest clippings for my compost. Nothing heats up cold compost like fresh green grass clippings. Grass clippings contain about 4 percent nitrogen and 80 percent water – two things compost always needs. Ideally, I shoot for a mix of one part clippings to three parts rough compost. A week after mixing in clippings, I can feel the heat coming from my heap.

Miracle Mulch
My best, weed-free clippings often become mulch. When mulching around plants, I spread clippings only one inch deep, and add a new layer every three to four weeks. Thin layers won't heat up enough to damage plants, nor do they become slimy or smelly. I go thicker around the edges of beds, using a ribbon of grass clippings to define neat, weed-free edges.


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