Keeping grass clipping at home is a much better solution than filling a bag for the city to collect each week. There are lots of benefits to having a compost heap at home, such as feed for your plants and shrubs. However, if you’re not careful, adding grass clippings will make your compost heap get big really fast.
So, speeding up the decomposition process can certainly help keep your compost at a manageable size. But how long does it take for grass clippings to decompose and how can you accelerate composting and decompose grass clippings faster? Let’s take a look.
Decomposing Grass Clippings Faster (The Short Answer)
To successfully decompose grass clippings fast, you’ll need to make sure you have all the right ingredients. This will include grass clippings, brown matter, and a healthy source of bacteria/fungi/enzymes. In addition to these ingredients, you’ll need to keep the compost moist, warm, and aerated. Finally, the smaller the material is in the compost, the faster the decomposition process will be.
How Long Does It Normally Take for Grass Clippings to Decompose?
You’re probably wondering, how long does it take for grass clippings to decompose? Well, How fast your grass clippings decompose can vary greatly depending on how you have put together your ingredients and how you look after the compost.
For example, if you just dump a big pile of clipping in the corner of your yard and do nothing with it, then decomposing can take several months, if not years. Also, you’ll probably end up with a moldy, smelly, and pretty much useless compost pile.
But if you give your compost all the right ingredients and take care of it, then you can cut the processing period down to under six months and end up with nutritious feed for your plants. So, let’s take a closer look at how to decompose grass clippings fast.
How to Decompose Grass Clippings Faster (My Top Hacks)
So you know that leaving a pile of grass clipping in the corner of your yard won’t help speed up the decomposing process. So what will? Well, let’s take a closer look at how to decompose grass clippings fast.
The Right Compost Set Up
There are a couple of ways to set up your compost. You might want to just have a small compost that takes care of some of your clippings, or you might want to go big so that you can keep adding clippings on a weekly basis. For example, a 50-gallon compost drum from the landscaping center will take care of a small amount of clippings, whereas a bigger wooden structure will handle year-round clippings.
I find that a three-sided wooden structure, say four feet by four feet, is big enough to take care of a good-sized lawn year-round. This is going to help keep the decomposing material together to improve water and heat retention.
Adding the Right Composting Material
Fresh grass clippings alone are not enough to make a successful compost, and they certainly won’t speed up the process. Now you could leave some clippings on the lawn to dry out, then mix the dry clippings with fresh clippings, but this isn’t a quick way to decompose grass.
So, you’ll need some brown material instead. Brown material can be dry vegetation like mulched leaves, shrub clipping, wood, pine needles, and even paper. The mixture of green and brown materials serves two purposes.
First, the green material, which in this case is the grass clippings, provides a high source of nitrogen and protein, which heats up the compost and provides microorganisms a boost to multiply quicker.
Second, brown materials are a high source of carbon or carbohydrate for all the organisms working to break down the compost. So getting this mix right is key to speeding up the whole process.
Having the Right Bacteria, Fungi & Enzymes
Now that you have your compost set up and your mix ready, you’ll need to have the right creepy crawlies working on your compost. So, you could wait for them to appear naturally or give your compost a head start and speed things up.
Here’s where compost additive comes into play. There are three different types of additives you can use to shave off weeks in the decomposing process.
A compost activator is a product containing fertilizers such as finished compost, manure, and blood meal. These are a great source of food for your bacteria and fungi that will save time getting your compost moving.
If you are wondering where to get bacteria and fungi from, then compost inoculants are your answer. These are dormant bacteria and fungi that you can add to your compost to jump-start the process. So instead of waiting for bacteria and fungi to populate and multiply, you can add inoculants to the compost to speed up the process.
One way to get your compost going is to add compost from an old compost pipe, as mature compost has all the necessary items to start the process. But, if you are just starting out and wondering how to make grass clippings decompose faster, then you can use a compost starter.
A compost starter is a combination of both inoculants and activators. In other words, everything you need to start the decomposing process. It’s a one-bag solution to start a new compost. It’s basically a grass compost accelerator.
Keeping the Compost Moist
Next on the list is keeping your compost moist. You want to aim for about 40-60% moisture content. If your compost is too dry, it limits microbial activity, which slows the whole process down. On the other hand, having the moisture content too high will increase the anaerobic process and reduce air/oxygen intake.
Again, this slows the decomposing process down. Also, compost that is too wet will begin to smell. So, keep an eye on the moisture content of your compost by using a compost moisture tester. If the compost is drying out, add water. If the compost is too wet, say from rain, then try covering the compost with a plastic sheet like a tarp.
Keeping the Compost at the Right Temperature
To turn fresh green grass clippings into compost, your compost heap will go through four main processes: mesophilic, thermophilic, cooling, and maturation. During these stages, your compost will rapidly heat up, stay hot, slowly cool down, then finally reach a cool to ambient temperature. Here’s a rough guide on how long this process takes and what temperature each stage reaches.
|Mesophilic||A couple of days||Ambient to 100 degrees F|
|Thermophilic||A couple of days to several months||100 degrees F - 170 degrees F|
|Cooling & Maturation||Several Months||170 degrees F - Ambient|
So, how to make grass clippings decompose faster and speed up this process? Well, your compost setup is definitely going to help. A consolidated compost instead of a thin spread-out compost will help the compost reach the required temperatures. A cover will also help your compost retain heat. Just remember to keep your compost moist. Then, when the compost is in the cooling and maturation stages, you can spread it out. This will help speed up the cooling. Just don’t spread it out too early, or you’ll interrupt the entire process.
Keeping the Compost Aerated
One vital part of composting is allowing enough air/oxygen into your compost. This is so that all the creepy crawlies can breathe. Plus, aerating compost will help reduce the initial high moisture content from the fresh clippings.
So, you can grab a garden fork and mix your compost by turning it over. If you just leave your compost to work by itself, then it will probably suffocate and take forever to complete all four cycles.
If this all sounds like too much hard work, here are some more ideas on what to do with your grass clippings after mowing.