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Mown Lawn

Grass clipping fatigue

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After surviving a second deluge in two years, JUSTIN RUSSELL deals with overgrown lawns, and a flood of grass clippings.

Following last month’s Australia Day downpour, the lawns in my garden have been growing like the dickens. Moist soil and temperatures in the mid-20’s are perfect growing conditions for kikuyu, and though I’d rather green lushness than scorched earth, too much growth can be a problem when your ride-on mower packs it in and you’ve got an acre and a half of ground to cover. So for a few consecutive days, I slogged through the foot long grass with my push mower.

What a workout! But more to the point, what a lot of grass clippings! So many, in fact, that I had to be creative in the ways I used them. Compost was the obvious option, but the problem with lush green clippings is that they are high in nitrogen. To compost a huge pile of clippings without any carbon based material isn’t a great idea. The heap gets excessively hot, combusts, and spews methane into the atmosphere. The solution is to combine the clippings with something dry and “brown”. I combined some clippings with double the volume of straw and dried leaves, then threw the lot on a partially decomposed compost heap.

But a large volume of clippings remained. Some were dumped straight into the chook pen. My birds go nuts for fresh grass clippings, and will happily spend hours scratching through a pile, eating grass and pecking out bugs and seeds. I’ve learnt that the trick is not to add too many clippings in one hit, especially if more wet weather is forecast. They can quickly turn slimy and foul.

The remaining clippings were used as mulch. Again the key to avoiding problems is to use the clippings quite sparingly. I never apply them more than about five centimetres deep, except when I want to smother some grass runners or weeds invading a garden bed, when I’ll spread a deeper layer to exclude light.

Eventually I whittled the pile of clippings down to nothing. And wouldn’t you know it – on the same day, a flyer from my local council arrived in the mail, promoting wheelie bins for the disposal of “green waste”. Sorry Toowoomba Regional Council, but I’m not buying it. I’m an organic gardener. Healthy soil is the backbone of my craft, and what you consider waste is as precious to me as water.