Got a stinky, slimy pile of grass clippings? Here's how to compost grass clippings without the smelly mess.
While grass clippings can be a valuable addition to your compost pile, grasscycling is better for your lawn - and less work - than collecting and composting grass clippings.
Grasscycling is simply recycling your clippings by leaving them on your lawn to decompose naturally. If you need to collect them, composting grass clippings is a better alternative to sending them to the landfill.
When is it a good idea to bag clippings? It's helpful to remove clippings when your lawn must be mowed and is wet or excessively tall - leaving grass clumps. You can also quickly clean a lawn full of leaves/debris by mowing with your grass catcher.
I used to work as the gardener for a large estate. The owner insisted on collecting ALL of the grass clippings, and we generated a lot of them. There were concrete bins near our shop that were stockpiled with mulch and topsoil. Instead of hauling the clippings and spreading them in one of the fields, I decided to "compost" the grass clippings in the spare bin. We accumulated a large pile of grass clippings that quickly turned into a stinky, slimy mess.
It rained a lot that summer so the pile stayed wet. We turned it weekly with the skid steer, while continuing to add more grass clippings, garden trimmings and some soil. Our mountain of lawn cuttings remained a foul-smelling mess.
What did we do wrong? (We should have googled how to compost.)
A pile of grass clippings has a very high moisture content and tends to form a compact mat that restricts air movement. This was causing our heap to compost anaerobically - emitting the foul smell. There was too much nitrogen and moisture and not enough bulk material - leaves, wood chips, hedge clippings, straw, etc.
Grass clippings are a great addition to a compost pile, they are rich in nitrogen that the microbial population uses as they decompose the organic matter. Dry leaves, wood chips or straw need to be mixed in a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio with clippings to produce good compost and reduce odors.
If you bag your lawn cuttings, you will be collecting them faster than
they can compost. The best way to handle a continuous supply of grass
clippings is to have multiple compost piles at different stages of
decomposition. You will then have a place to dump fresh clippings while
moving materials that are starting to decompose into your other piles.
Keys to a successful compost pile:
Compost tumblers or a compost drum will make compost fast. They also save space and contain odors, which is perfect for small properties. These are easy for the handy DIYer to make (like the one pictured on the left) or purchased from a retailer. There are several styles to choose from.