Covering grass seeds protects them from harsh weather, helps retain moisture, and encourages germination.
A layer of straw is typically used to cover newly-planted grass seeds, but this method has its limitations.
Occasionally, straw dehydrates the grass seeds underneath by absorbing too much moisture.
Certain varieties of straw may also contain weed seeds, which will compete with your grass for nutrients and sunlight.
Fortunately, there are several alternatives to using straw to cover your grass seeds.
So, is it possible to use grass clippings instead of straw?
Grass clippings are an excellent alternative to straw for covering grass seeds. Not only do grass clippings prevent dehydration, but they also add essential nutrients to the soil. Using grass clippings as ground cover is also a cheaper option, as you will be able to get them free from your own yard.
Spread the grass clippings in a thin layer to avoid smothering the grass seedlings.
A thin layer of clippings will also break down easier to release nutrients into the soil necessary for healthy grass growth.
Read on to learn more about using grass clippings instead of straw.
The Advantages of Using Grass Clippings
There are several benefits of grass clippings when used as coverage for grass seeds.
Grass clippings are eco-friendly for ground cover because they do not naturally contain harmful chemicals.
Using grass clippings as seed coverage or compost also reduces the usage of plastic bags for lawn clippings, which often end up in landfills.
Best of all, lawn clippings are budget-friendly because you will be able to collect them for free every time you mow your grass.
A thin layer of grass clippings over your seeds prevents moisture evaporation and provides shade to keep the soil from drying out quickly.
As a result, you will not have to water your lawn frequently, allowing you to conserve water.
Take care not to spread the grass clippings in a thick layer, as this may retain too much moisture and lead to fungal growth or brown spots on your lawn.
Mulched grass clippings discourage weeds from growing by providing some shade on the soil.
If your entire lawn contains a lot of weeds, remove the weeds with seed heads before mowing.
Removing the weeds before you mow ensures your lawn clippings do not contain unwanted weed seeds.
Improves Soil Health
Grass clippings are a good source of nutrients required for a healthy lawn.
As the clippings break down in the decomposition process, they release these nutrients into the soil.
Lawn clippings are nitrogen-rich and contain small amounts of phosphorus and potassium.
Sandy and clay soils will be improved with the addition of grass clippings.
Limits the Use of Chemicals
One major benefit of grass clippings is they are a natural fertilizer and contain about 40% of the nutrients your lawn needs to stay healthy.
Spreading a thin layer of grass clippings on your lawn and newly seeded areas is a great way to organically fertilize your grass without using harmful chemical fertilizers.
Plus, you will be able to save money on fertilizer by utilizing what is freely available to you.
Synthetic fertilizers harm insects, birds, and other wildlife and may cause lawn damage.
The grass clippings’ fertilizer is organic and beneficial to the wildlife and your lawn.
How To Collect Grass Clippings
Many lawnmowers include a bag attachment to collect the grass clippings as you mow.
If your mower does not have this attachment, you may rake the lawn clippings or use a lawn sweeper.
Lawn sweepers gather the grass clippings into an attached bag.
There are lawn sweepers you attach to your riding mower for a larger yard, or you may use a hand-pushed sweeper for a smaller lawn.
Using a lawn sweeper is the most efficient method for collecting your grass clippings to spread on newly-seeded areas.
Once you have bagged the grass clippings, allow them to dry for at least one day to eliminate excess water.
Fresh grass clippings may become matted together and create a layer of thatch over your seeds.
You will then spread a thin layer of the dried clippings over your grass seeds to protect them.
A quarter-inch of grass clippings is all you need to provide adequate seed coverage.
Other Alternatives to Straw
Aside from grass clippings, there are several other alternatives to using straw for grass seed coverings.
These alternative products are all organic, although they are more costly than grass clippings since you get those free whenever you mow.
While sawdust does not offer the nutritional benefits of grass clippings, it will protect your seeds from drying out.
Sawdust is also inexpensive, wind resistant, and reduces soil compaction in heavy soils.
Spread the sawdust in a thin layer and ensure no clumps in the mixture.
If the sawdust layers are too thick, they will mat together and repel water.
Peat moss improves soil structure and is often used as a soil amendment.
Using peat moss to cover grass seeds provides them with nutrients and retains moisture.
Layers of peat moss should be no more than 1/4″ inch deep to prevent it from smothering the seeds.
This compost and peat moss spreader makes it easy to apply an even layer of peat moss over your grass seeds without disturbing them too much.
It is not advised to use peat moss on sloped areas, as it may be washed away by heavy rains.
Peat moss creates a natural deterrent for birds and is best used in areas with low humidity.
Composted leaves are a budget-friendly option and make a good cover for grass seeds as long as they are spread in a thin layer.
Leaves and other organic materials are good nutrients for your grass seedlings.
Sandy soil is greatly improved by the nutrients from a layer of compost.
If other organic matter is present in your leaf compost, ensure it is fully decomposed.
Large particles of organic compost material may attract unwanted wildlife to your yard or cause the grass seeds to rot.
Coconut coir is an excellent choice as an alternative to straw.
For heavy clay soil, coconut coir works well to keep grass seeds moist.
Using coconut coir will not offer any nutritional benefits but works well to aerate the soil and prevent erosion.
Will Uncovered Grass Seeds Grow?
Grass seeds will grow if left uncovered, but not all seeds will germinate, leaving you with a patchy lawn.
The primary purpose of covering grass seeds is to protect them and retain moisture and heat in the soil.
If the grass seeds are exposed, they are more likely to dry out and not germinate.
Further Reading: Helping grass seeds grow on top of the soil
Any seeds managing to germinate while uncovered will have a more difficult time forming a deep root system.
Shallow roots cannot absorb vital nutrients and moisture from the soil, and the grass blades may easily be pulled from the ground when mowed.
Exposed seeds are also in danger of being eaten by birds or washed away during heavy rainfall.
It is crucial to ensure good seed-to-soil contact, so your seeds germinate properly.
A lawn roller like this one is a useful tool to help push the seeds into the soil surface.