Mulching is one of those soil amendments that one cannot ignore. The process involves recycling some of your grass clippings so that you can improve the texture and composition of your soil. The recycled grass clippings are what are known as mulch and help protect your lawn by preserving soil moisture and keeping the soil at optimal temperatures. The mulch will also prevent disease infestation and thatch from contaminating your lawn. Mulch will result in a healthier looking lawn.
When to mulch
Once you have made the decision to mulch the next thing you need to answer is when to mulch. Mulching is best done in spring and summer. When you are cutting your grass, it is important to leave the grass clippings there. Many people are misinformed that clippings cause thatch but this is not true. The grass clippings are rich in nutrients and water and when you leave them at the point of cuttings they return these nutrients back to the soil. These is done during decomposition. One of the key benefits of mulching with your grass clippings is that it saves money and time. You do not need to be invest much during mulching yet the benefits are diverse.
Mulching does not cause lawn thatch
Many lawn owners are hesitant to use grass clippings as they presume it will cause lawn thatch. Lawn thatch is a layer of dead turf grass tissue that is found between the root system of the soil and the green vegetation of the grass above. When this layer accumulates to over ½ inch it will start causing certain health hazards for your lawn. The grass clippings are not a problem but when this thatch grows above one inch in the length then you are going to start experiencing challenges. Most lawn thatch will consist of stolons, stems and roots that have not broken down properly. The thatch blocks the receiving of nutrients to your grass and may sieve through your grass roots.
It is unavoidable to have lawn thatch but you can prevent it from becoming a problem by doing a few things like avoiding overwatering your grass, not applying too much nitrogen rich fertilizer and excessive use of pesticides.
Proper mowing of your lawn
Grass clippings do not cause thatch but they can contribute to an existing thatch problem. It is recommended that you mow you lawn regularly with the use of a mulching mower and also avoid clumping. This is the trimming of the lawn under extreme wet conditions.
One of the benefits of returning the grass clippings back to the lawn is that it provides a quarter of the required nitrogen requirements. The moment you recycle your grass clippings you add up to a pound of the nitrogen required for proper grass growth. Most lawns require around 4 pounds of nitrogen for them to thrive and if you can get a quarter of that from your clippings then you just need to add 3 pounds for your grass to grow properly.
When the grass clippings get into the soil they are broken down by an intricate web of worms, bacteria, and fungi that further boost the soil diversity. Most lawn experts recommend that your organic lawn care should account for at least 5 percent of the total nutrient levels. If you consider that it takes many years to just achieve 1% of this requirement then it is prudent that you start mulching your lawn now.
Do I need special equipment to mulch?
Yes, you will need one. You can either go with a mower with special features for mulching or a dedicated mulching mower. This kind of equipment comes with a special blade and dedicated deck that keeps the clippings revolving around the blade. The dedicated mulching decks are often sealed and rounded with some having deflectors so that the clippings have space to move around. The reason for the dedicated grass clippings decks is to boost airflow. The special blades will re-cut the clippings and push them downwards instead of throwing them sideways. This is essential in creating the mulch.
The mulching equipment work by first cutting the grass and then the clippings become suspended in the deck above the cutting blades. A vacuum is created in this deck that then forces the clippings downwards into the turf where it has being cut. Once they do break down they will be a rich source of phosphates and nitrogen.
At times you may need a mulching kit to achieve superior results with your equipment. This mainly consists of mulch plug and blade, and deflectors. The plug is there to prevent the expelled clippings from being expelled through the grass exit channel. The deflectors re-direct the clippings into the deck so that the blades can re-cut them. These are then deposited into the turf.
How different are mulching blades
When you compare a mulching blade with others you will notice that the edge is angled so as to create a sort of vacuum that is necessary to push the grass clippings downwards.
One question often asked is how frequent should one mulch. For most people it should be at least once a week. This gives the grass enough time to grow before the next cutting. You should also be on the lookout so that your grass does not grow too tall before mulching. When cutting the grass it is advised that you do not cut more than 1/3 of the total height of the grass. This helps the grass roots to grow. Also, when you are mulching do not allow your grass to grow more than 8cm.
If want to water you lawn ensure you do it after you have cut the grass. This is because dry grass clippings are easier to spread than the wet ones. It is for this reason, that most experts advise on mulching your lawn after the morning dew has dried up.
The contention is which is cheaper a collection system for your lawnmower or a mulching kit. With a collection system you need more labor to handle the grass clippings. First, you have to cut the grass then you need to put it into a collection back. Then there is emptying the bag either on site or you dispose them in another place. A mulching kit allows you to re-configure your lawnmower so that it can fine cut the grass clippings and put them back to the soil. This is way cheaper than a collection system as it eliminates the need to figure out the disposal of your grass cuttings. The grass cuttings also play a vital role of enriching your soil by providing the necessary nitrogen.
There instances where it is not recommended to do mulching like when your lawn is full of weeds like crabgrass and dandelions. Collecting the clippings is recommended at this time as it can promote the growth of the weeds. Also, if the lawn has remained unmowed for a long time then it may be wise to collect the clippings for disposal. You also need to understand that clippings do not discompose effectively when there is an overuse of pestisides. Synthetic fertilizers also pose a problem in that they alter the soil biology by increasing the salts present. This further makes the soil lack the necessary earthworms and microbial activity necessary for decomposition.
Having a well maintained lawn adds to the general aesthetic appeal of your home. However, lawns need to be maintained regularly through a system of cutting and mulching. Mulching is cheap and good way to increase the soil texture for your lawn. It also provides the necessary nitrogen for lawn growth.