Mulching is an essential step for keeping your garden’s soil healthy and promoting suitable biological activities in it. However, it may only give you the desired results if done correctly.
For those who didn’t know, mulching is the process of cutting your lawn’s grass and leaving it in the form of a “mulch” to add nutrients to the topsoil. But can you do this throughout the year? No.
Suppose your grass isn’t long enough, and you try to make mulch out of it. In that case, it will cause damage rather than help. So you must know the correct time for trimming it so it leaves you with the right amount of mulch without damaging your lawn’s beauty.
So when should you mulch your lawn? To find the answers to it, read till the end.
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What is Mulching and Why it is a Sustainable Fertilizer?
Mulching is the process of trimming the grass and spreading the trimmed grass on the mowed lawn. So, instead of simply cutting the grass and dumping it as waste somewhere else, you would take it, shred it even finer, and spread it over the topsoil as a natural fertilizer.
This shredded grass is called mulch, which is the loose and organic top layer of the soil. Since mulch is made of pure organic matter, it feeds the topsoil with natural organic nutrients and offers nourishment to the ground.
Mulching is a great option to create an ecological balance in your garden and is sustainable, too. And if you are someone who believes in avoiding chemical fertilizers, this would be an excellent option for you.
However, you might wonder if it can actually be a suitable replacement for strong fertilizers. Well, plain grass cuttings are good, but if you wish to provide more nourishment to your topsoil, you can mix some other organic matter with them.
Depending on the purpose of the mulch, the ingredients will vary. You can mix leaves, chopped twigs and branches, waste wood, straw, and stone with the grass shed to increase the potency of the mulch and make it more nutritious.
So, how does mulch make your lawn grass healthier?
- Protects the top layer of the soil
- Helps regulate soil temperature when the weather is too cold or hot
- Prevents moisture loss, so your turf never gets dehydrated
- Adds nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to the soil so your plants grow healthier
Besides, since mulch is an organic byproduct of the grass cuttings and natural waste generated in your lawn, recycling and reusing it as a fertilizer makes your lawn more resilient and healthy.
How Often Should You Mulch Your Lawn?
Now that you know how beneficial mulching is, it’s time to answer the most critical question: When and how often should you do it for the best results?
If you want the best results, you need to be consistent with the process. As you will be trimming the grass and reusing it as a fertilizer, you might not be able to get enough mulch in one go to create a layer that is thick enough.
But you also don’t want to mow your lawn so short or often that the turf’s growth is hindered. Thus, you should mow and mulch your lawn at an interval of 8 to 15 days. However, the duration depends on the growth rate of the grass and how long it grows.
Most gardeners follow the rule of mulching regularly throughout the gardening season, from spring to autumn. This is because, during the other seasons, the turf’s growth is much slower.
On that note, make sure that the mulching layer is not extremely thick. Otherwise, it will deprive the soil beneath of air circulation and suffocate it. The finer the grass choppings, the better mulch it makes, so letting the grass grow very long will double your job of shredding them in tiny bits.
What is the Difference Between Mulching and Mowing?
While mowing and mulching are closely connected, they are not the same. In mowing, you use a mower to simply trim the lawn grass, but mulching adds another step, where you collect the grass cuttings, shred them even finer, and then spread them evenly as a natural fertilizer.
Apart from this, there are also some differences in terms of the machines that are used in mulching and mowing. While you would use a simple mower to mow your lawn, if you wish to do mulch mowing, then you would require a different type of mower that has an internal chopper attached that shreds the grass cuttings into finer pieces and collects them.
However, you can also use a separate mower and shredder if you like mixing leaves, twigs, and branches in your mulch.
Some Essential Tips on Mulching Your Lawn
Now that you’re habituated to the term mulching and understand what it means and how it differs from mowing let’s dive into some critical details.
We already know when you should mulch your lawn and why.
But when must you avoid mulching? Why? What kind of equipment is ideal for mulching your lawn? We have provided a few important tips that will clear all your confusion about the process so you can do it worry-free!
Tip 1: Avoid Mulching Your Lawn Under these Circumstances
While mulching is excellent for almost every lawn, there are a few cases when you should avoid mulching, as it can backfire.
- If your lawn has loamy or poorly aerated soil (heavy soil with low permeability), mulching will not have beneficial results
- If your lawn is very sandy and has little biological activity, you need to fix that before trying mulching
- If you have a shaded lawn or live in an area with heavy rainfall, mulching might not be the best thing, as mulching works best in sunny conditions
- Besides, rain and excessively moist conditions can, in fact, react with the mulch and encourage moss growth, which is not ideal
Tip 2: Avoid Making Your Mulching Layer Thick
We have already told you to keep the shreddings small and thin. But why should you avoid making your mulch all thick?
You must be thinking that the thicker the mulch, the more organic matter and nutrients would seep through the topsoil and make it healthier.
But we’re sorry to say that you’re mistaken.
A thick mulch prevents aeration. It will prevent air circulation for the grass beneath and will suffocate and turn yellowish.
That is why you should concentrate on making very fine grass shreddings. These allow easy passage of air, and the lawn top can benefit from the mulch.
Tip 3: Use These Equipment for Your Next Mulching Operation
The following equipment list will help you save time and effort when mulching your lawn.
1. A Mower with a Mulching Function
If you are trying to do mulch mowing, you would need to have a mower that comes with a mulching function. This additional feature in the mower ensures that the grass is shredded finely and spread evenly across your lawn, making your job easier.
But of course, you would need to go over the budget of regular mowers, which might not be possible for everyone. It will not be a cost-efficient investment, especially if you have a comparatively smaller lawn and are not planning to mulch regularly.
2. Leaf Shredder/Chipper Shredder/Electric Mulcher
If your plan is to try mulching for the first time, see the results, and then go all in, your best bet would be to buy a separate leaf shredder, a chipper shredder, or a simple electric mulcher.
3. Bagging Mower
If you are going ahead with the option mentioned above, using a bagging mower will be better, as it will save you the effort of collecting all the grass clippings that a regular mower would otherwise expel outside as you mow.
So, if you buy a separate electric mulcher, you need to collect the grass clippings, twigs, leaves, etc. and put it in the machine to make a fine mulch and then spread it yourself manually.
There are a lot of options you can try, such as grass clippings, leaves, straw, wood chips, and compost. Amongst these, grass clippings and leaves are readily available and free, while for wood chips and straws, you might need to visit your local farm.
But they are great for making a longer-lasting mulch. Also, avoid using diseased plant material or large chunks that might smother your lawn.
To apply mulch, spread a thin, even layer (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch) over the lawn using a rake or a specialized mulch-spreading tool. Make sure there are no thick clumps that can suffocate the grass underneath.
The best time to apply mulch is after mowing when the grass is dry.
While a mulching mower is convenient, you can still do mulching without one.
You can use a regular lawnmower with side discharge and then shred the clippings separately with a leaf shredder, chipper-shredder, or electric mulcher. You can then spread this shredded material as mulch.
It is usually recommended that when the grass becomes 6 to 7 cm tall, you trim it down to 4 to 5 cm.
However, for shaded lawns, there is an expectation. For shaded lawns, you can let the grass grow a few cm taller and cut it down to a maximum of 5 cm.
Too much of anything is bad, and the same applies to mulch as well.
If you lay down a layer of mulch that is too thick, it can deprive the grass blades of sunlight and air, and you will have the risk of developing dry brown patches in your lawn. Also, a very thick layer of mulch can suffocate the soil below and decrease its fertility.
Final Tips Before You Go Mulching!
While it is great to be consistent with the mulching, if you want the best results, pair it with seasonal scarifying. It is the process of removing the dead thatch and letting the soil breathe so that it absorbs nutrients better. You can do this in autumn and spring, which is the optimal growing period for grass.
Also, NEVER mulch wet grass, as you will find the moist grass clippings getting all clumpy and difficult to spread. Besides, the excessive moisture leads to quick rotting, which defeats the whole purpose of adding nutrients.