You may have already thought about making compost with grass clipping, and in all honesty, it is a great idea. However, simply tossing the grass clippings into your compost pile won't work. Therefore, here are some ideas to consider and the best way for you to successfully compost grass cuttings.
Do You Need to Compost Your Clippings?
Before you decide to dump a big pile of grass onto your compost pile, consider the alternatives. Obviously, if you have a large number of clippings, your best option will be the compost pile. However, there are alternatives.
Some lawn mowers will be designed to pick up the grass clippings as it is cut. However, for those that don't, gathering the clippings may be a chore you don't actually have to do. If the grass you are cutting is regularly maintained and cut professionally, the small number of clippings will in fact, naturally decompose into your garden lawn. The benefit of this is not needed to waste time on gathering the clippings and also, not needing to make a compost pile.
Alternatively, if you prefer to clean up the clippings, there are still some steps you will need to take before putting it
Which Lawnmower Works Best?
Just your average household lawnmower will work on a smaller, garden, scale. However, if you are planning on cutting grass for multiple people or larger landscapes, you may be better off with something industrial
For a standard garden, simply use a push-a-long lawnmower. These will usually come with a grass catcher on the back and can save you time collecting the clippings. Using one of these will mean that leaving the clippings for natural decomposition won't be possible.
However, for larger scales, you may want a riding lawn mower for hills and larger areas a pushing lawn mower wouldn't be able to tackle. Riding lawn mowers can come with grass catchers but in some cases, they don't. Therefore, you can either collect the clippings for compost, or you can leave the grass to naturally decompose.
Green and Brown Balance
You may already know this, but in a compost pile, you need to have a good mixture of green and brown materials. This mixture allows the materials to decompose in the correct way.
Freshly cut grass clippings are categorized as green material. This is due to it being fresh. Therefore, if you are planning on adding your freshly cut clippings, you will need to add some brown materials. For example, for every load of grass clippings you put in the composting area, you will need to add the same amount of dry leaves.
Alternatively, you can allow the grass clippings to dry out. Doing so will turn the grass cuttings brown in color, therefore, making the clippings a brown material
Multiple Compost Piles
One of the best ways to successfully compost grass is to have multiple compost piles. This will only be successful if you are composting a lot of grass clippings. However, if you do in fact handle a continuous amount of grass, then this method will suit your needs.
The best way to go is to start out with one pile. Start filling this with the grass clippings, while remembering the green and brown rule. Over time, this will begin to fill to the point of needing another pile. This is where the next pile comes into play. Simply start over with the second pile as before. You will now have two different piles, at different stages of decomposition. If you need to add more, do so and remember to follow the rules.
If you would rather keep your compost contained and in storage, then getting a compost bin would be ideal. Alternatively, you can use a bin or water-butt
If you decide to use an alternative to a compost bin, such as a water butt or bin, there are a few steps to take.
Firstly, once you have the bin or container, you will need to drill out some holes. Using a 1.5cm drill piece is advised and the holes should be drilled in rows at roughly 15 cm intervals. Once that is complete, you can start adding your materials. Just remember to stir the contents occasionally to avoid uneven decomposition
Problems That Can Occur
The main thing that will affect your composting is the conditions. Different conditions can cause the composting process to fail or become unusable.
Moisture — Keeping the compost moist is key. This will allow the composting process to work smoothly. However, you want to try and keep the moisture level around 40-60%. Too much moisture will completely halt the process and could cause problems down the line. Your compost pile must act in a similar way to a wrung-out sponge. If you can squeeze it and moisture drips out, it's too wet. Therefore, in rainy seasons, it is best to keep your compost covered Material
Size — When composition takes place, you want all materials in that pile to decompose at a similar rate. However, if you have a whole bunch of different sized materials, parts will decompose faster than the other leaving you with a poorly decomposed pile. To avoid this, either use separate piles for the larger materials, or alternatively, cut the larger materials down to a suitable size.
Temperature — The best temperature for composition to take place is roughly 120 — 150 degrees F. The decomposition process is basically where microbes grow and break down the materials. This temperature also allows the microbes to reproduce at a steady rate. However, if the temperature is above or below, there can be problems for example, breaking down seed heads.
Grass Treatments — Many people are concerned with using treated grass for compost. However, in most cases, there won't be any cause for concern. The herbicide you use at home on your garden is legally required to be able to decompose, therefore, not affecting the compost. However, on larger scales such as on golf courses or fields, there is a bigger chance that powerful herbicides were used that can take weeks to break down.
Overall, getting started with composting grass can be tricky. However, after you have set your first load up and start to see the outcome, you will find it easier and easier. If you have a few piles that turn out bad and stinky, just start again. It is all decomposable and if you fail at first, try and try again until you have mastered the art of turning grass clippings, and other materials, into fully useable compost.