General Discussion:

Grass as mulch for veggie bed?

Messages posted to thread:

AJ30-May-03 10:57 AM EST 5a   
Greg30-May-03 01:30 PM EST 6a   
AJ30-May-03 09:39 PM EST 5a   
bruce04-Jun-03 09:54 AM EST 3   
AJ05-Jun-03 07:55 PM EST 5a   
Shelley05-Jul-03 12:01 AM EST 6   
05-Jul-03 10:27 PM EST   
Shelley06-Jul-03 03:44 AM EST 6   
Brent07-Jul-03 10:33 AM EST 4b   
JoanneS07-Jul-03 01:47 PM EST 3a   
AJ11-Jul-03 04:29 PM EST 5a   

Subject: Grass as mulch for veggie bed?
From: AJ
Zone: 5a
Date: 30-May-03 10:57 AM EST

I was previously advised on this forum to use grass clippings as mulch for my small vegetable garden. However, my husband insists that if I do use fresh grass clippings, this will cause some grass to grow as weeds in my veggie bed. Is this correct? If it is, what would be a better alternative?

Also, I am wondering when it is a good time to apply the mulch. Right now my seedlings are so small it seems they'd get lost in grass clippings! But I am getting a bunch of little weeds popping up, so when should I apply it?

Subject: RE: Grass as mulch for veggie bed?
From: Greg
Zone: 6a
Date: 30-May-03 01:30 PM EST

I doubt that grass clippings would sprout in your garden, and only if you had some chunks of root in with the clippings.

The concern I would have with using grass clippings is that they are high in nitrogen. This is great for lettuce but for tomatoes you might get a lot of foliage growth at the expense of fruit. In my opinion, it would be better to compost the clippings with leaves and other materials and use the resulting compost as a mulch.

Subject: RE: Grass as mulch for veggie bed?
From: AJ
Zone: 5a
Date: 30-May-03 09:39 PM EST

Thanks Greg, I am growing tomatoes, so I don't want that. But I don't think I'll be able to do my own composting this year. Can I buy regular bagged "compost" to use for this purpose? Anything in particular I should look for?

Subject: RE: Grass as mulch for veggie bed?
From: bruce (
Zone: 3
Date: 04-Jun-03 09:54 AM EST

Hi AJ. I have a large veggie garden and regularly use green grass clippings as a mulch.My brother in law has a lawn company and i can get all the clippings i want but i make sure i don't use any from treated lawns.So far i haven't had any problems even around the tomatoes which can be pinched back if they get to leggy. Last year i put in at least 100 large yard bags of grass clippings and i also add leaves in the fall.My soil is clay but has improved dramatically in the last 4 years.

Subject: RE: Grass as mulch for veggie bed?
From: AJ
Zone: 5a
Date: 05-Jun-03 07:55 PM EST

Thanks, Bruce. My lawn is treated, however, so I guess clippings are definitely out for me. So I'm wondering about the compost again...

Subject: RE: Grass as mulch for veggie bed?
From: Shelley
Zone: 6
Date: 05-Jul-03 12:01 AM EST

I have a very large vegetable garden and a fussy well, so I'm not able to water as much as I'd like to. Several years ago I read an article about an old woman who used old hay to mulch her garden. I adapted her idea and the results have worked so well for me, I do it every year - as do many of my now converted gardening friends and neighbours. My soil just keeps getting better every year!

Once I have planted my garden, I use strips of newspaper (not the coloured or glossy advertising fliers) and cover the soil around the plants, rows and even the paths. I then cover the newspaper with hay or straw - I can often get broken or wet bales for free or quite cheap. For the size of my garden, the whole mulching process does take most of a day, but then, I don't have to weed for the rest of the season! The soil stays moist longer and the plants are clean - for instance, bush beans are kept off the soil and the tips of the beans don't rot. Tomatoes love it.

By summer's end, the newspaper is breaking down nicely (the inks used in newpapers in Canada are vegetable-based so they are not toxic) and by the next spring, newspaper and hay has all "composted" quite nicely into the soil. (I let my chickens into the garden through the winter to help scratch it all in.)

I have tried grass clippings as a mulch too, and though I did not find that it sprouted, I found it gets slippery and slimy - hay or straw is much nicer.

Subject: RE: Grass as mulch for veggie bed?
Date: 05-Jul-03 10:27 PM EST

I can't imagine using hay as mulch in a garden bed. Hay is basically a collection of weeds such as clover and grasses all of which are full of seeds. I have seen STRAW used as mulch but would never use hay for fear of sowing millions of weed seeds in my garden. did you mean hay or straw? (straw being only the stalks of threshed grain with all of the seeds removed) KO farm girl from AB :) untreated lawn clippings(DRY) would be ok but only if your lawn is weed free (dandelions and ragweed/chickweed seed themselves easily enough without our help. I vote for the compost. Peat moss works too but is light and can blow away I use sawdust/woodchips on the strawberry patch and it works well. keeps everything moist and the berries clean with no seeds to worry about. you can get it free at lumber yards or cheap by the bale like peatmoss.

Subject: RE: Grass as mulch for veggie bed?
From: Shelley
Zone: 6
Date: 06-Jul-03 03:44 AM EST

Hay is usually easier to obtain and cheaper than straw. I have used hay many times without problems with weeds. Perhaps it is second or third cut hay (which doesn't usually have as many seeds) or perhaps it is because the "cheap" bales are wet or old, that have been sitting so long that the seeds are no longer viable? Or, perhaps it is easier for the birds eat the seeds as the hay is spread out over the ground? Whatever the reason, I have not had a problem with weeds in my garden for many years. In fact, I probably don't even need to rototill it anymore...

If there was clover in the hay, I would think that being a legume, sprouting clover would be beneficial as it adds nitrogen to the soil. Many wheats and ryes in hay are annual, so even if they did sprout, they would die back during the winter, adding to the "compost".

If some "weeds" do happen to germinate in the hay mulch, just add more on top to smother it. I often layer more on as it all settles - as much as 6 to 8 inches. (Works very well with potatoes.)

Also, hay or straw mulch keeps the soil so nice and soft and friable, any weeds that do sprout are very easy to pull. Once, I obtained several damp bales of alfalfa - it sprouted a bit, but it was very easily uprooted. The sparrows and chickadees took care of any other seeds.

Besides the benefits of keeping down weeds, I believe that the because I don't have bare soil in the garden, the mulch helps with erosion on my sloped property and extends my garden's season by insulating the soil. Worms are incredibly abundant.

Though I keep a compost bin, I would never have enough compost to completely cover my garden enough to keep down the weeds.

Sawdust and wood chips are slow to break down and pull a lot of nitrogen from the soil and therefore away from the plants in order to do so.

Peat moss often forms an barrier that moisure runs off, keeping it away from the soil unless it is dug in. It does not inhibit the growth of weeds. Also, I'm hearing more and more that the harvesting of peat moss has reached the point where it is causing considerable devastation in some areas. Hay or straw is ecologically "safer" than peat moss.

Subject: RE: Grass as mulch for veggie bed?
From: Brent
Zone: 4b
Date: 07-Jul-03 10:33 AM EST

I live in an area in eastern Canada where peat moss is harvested. I visited an old fellow at his rather large peat moss plant in Eel River a couple years ago, and asked him how long they can harvest in one spot till the peat moss is used up. He told me that his family had started harvesting that field 35 years ago by hand. They now use a fleet of huge tractors with vacuums, and the field is still the same. He told me he had no idea how many years they will be able to harvest there, but they had set aside two more fields the same size years ago. They have never needed to use them. I guess the bottom line is that, at least in our area, the only environmental damage apparent from peat harvesting is the diesel exhaust from the tractors harvesting it and the trucks hauling it. ALL that being said, I don't personally use peat, since our soil is very acid already, and peat (even when treated) adds to acidity. Peat bogs, where they harvest peat, have little but peat growing in them. I don't take that as a good sign for using it in the garden! ;^) B.

Subject: RE: Grass as mulch for veggie bed?
From: JoanneS (
Zone: 3a
Date: 07-Jul-03 01:47 PM EST

I married into a farming family and get all the straw I want. I use it to cover my tender perennials in the fall and then reuse it as mulch in the raspberry patch/veggie patch.

The birds like it too and are always "stealing" my straw for their nests. I highly recommend the straw as cover and mulch. Apparently, if you have the luxury of being choosy, flax straw works best.

Subject: RE: Grass as mulch for veggie bed?
From: AJ
Zone: 5a
Date: 11-Jul-03 04:29 PM EST

Well, this is all very interesting - I ended up going to the store to try to buy bagged compost & they were out. So without a place to get compost, I ended up buying bags of dehydrated cow manure & just added a layer of that around the veggies. I thought I might as well go for it since I needed to put down something and as yet I could not get a clear answer besides the unavailable compost. Everything seems to be doing well & no weeds! So far so good! What do you think of my unusual mulch choice? Any problems with it?

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