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  • Writer's pictureBally Kana

How to Fertilize Your Lawn with Mulching

Updated: Sep 7

You may have seen mulch in flower beds, vegetable gardens, paths, and landscaping. But do you know how to fertilize your lawn with mulch? Organic mulch can break down like fertilizer and provide nutrients to your lawn. The best part is that you can make many of these mulches at home or buy them easily.

Let's look at the benefits of using mulch fertilizer on your lawn. If you're not sure what mulch is, don't worry. Let's look at that too.

What is Mulch?


Mulch is an organic or inorganic substance applied to the soil surface to protect or improve the soil surface. For example, mulching can conserve moisture or prevent weeds.

Organic mulch is made from degradable plant-based materials such as grass clippings and leaves. Inorganic mulch consists of materials that do not decompose, such as rocks or landscape fabric.

Mineral mulch won't help your lawn because it won't break the grass. Useful primarily in decorative situations or in areas where you want to control growth (e.g., around ornamental plants). However, a lawn frame can look great in contrast to the surrounding landscaping.

Organic mulching can provide benefits that inorganic mulching cannot. Because it can decompose, organic mulch provides nutrients to the soil. That's why it's perfect for lawns. Provides benefits without hindering or limiting turf growth when applied correctly.

Mulch vs Fertilizer

Wait, is mulch the same as fertilizer?

Not exactly, but redundant. Fertilizers are organic, inorganic, natural or synthetic substances that provide the nutrients needed for plant growth. This means that mulch can be a fertilizer if it provides nutrients. However, a cover that is merely decorative or prevents the growth of undesirable plants is not a fertilizer.

Types of Grass Mulch

What types of mulch can I use as lawn fertilizer?

Here are five types of organic mulch that break down and provide nutrients to your yard.

Mowed grass

This is the simplest way to mulch and fertilize your lawn. Mow the lawn with a mulching lawn mower to break the grass into small pieces. complete! Yes, it is. Make sure the cut length is 1 inch or less. This is more likely to happen if you mow on a schedule and don't cut more than 1/3 of the blades at a time.

You may have heard that lawn mowing contributes to thatch formation, but that is not true. Thatch is caused only by living or dead roots, shoots, and stems that accumulate on the surface. On the other hand, mowed grass decomposes quickly. There are several reasons that make mowed grass unsuitable for mulching.


Remove clipping when:

  • Too long (more than 1 inch).

  • Wet

  • Flocculation (can suffocate turf)

  • Diseased

If you have too many clippings, you can use them to mulch other plants in your yard. However, if you have recently applied herbicides or pesticides, you should not use them elsewhere.

Pro tip: Clean excess clippings from curbs, gutters and storm drains. Rinsing loose clippings can negatively affect water quality.

  • Easy to do.

  • Break down quickly.

  • Reintroduction of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium into the soil.

  • Soil texture and quality improvement.

  • Introduce more organic matter into the soil.

  • Reduces some weeds.

  • Stay hydrated.

  • Moderate soil temperature.

  • May look unattractive.

  • Poor compression resistance.

  • Can spread disease.

  • It won't work if the mowing is too long or too wet.

  • If it is not safe to use the mower without the packing attachment, it cannot be used.

  • If clippings get into gutters or storm drains, they can negatively affect water quality.

  • Clippings contain weed seeds, which can further spread throughout the lawn.

Shredded leaves

Don't pick the leaves yet. You can fertilize by cutting the lawn with a mulching mower or shredder. As with mowing, you can use the extra leaves to mulch other plants.


The leaves of different plants may have different effects. For example, oak and beech leaves are acidic and can affect soil pH as they decompose. Soil pH measures acidity and alkalinity. Too high or too low a pH can affect the ability of the grass to absorb nutrients most grass types prefer a pH between 6 and 7.

Test your soil to see where the pH is and whether acidic leaf cover is helping or hindering your lawn. But it shouldn't have a dramatic effect. If you need to change the pH, it's best to resort to soil amendment.

  • Easy to get and cheap.

  • Break down quickly.

  • Provide shelter for beneficial insects in winter.

  • Oak and beech leaves can add acid to alkaline soils.

  • If you don't cut it, it may fly off.

  • Poor compression resistance.

  • You can make acidic soil more acidic.

  • Wet leaves can suffocate grass.

  • Can spread disease.

  • May attract rodents.

  • There is a risk of fire.


If you like the idea of recycling plant waste, compost may be the solution. Table scraps, leaves and

grass clippings can be composted. Do not use meat, bones, fatty foods, diseased plants, weeds or

animal waste. Compost not only helps prevent waste, but it can also provide nutrients to your lawn

and other plants. You can also buy them if you don't want to make your own compost.

  • Soil structure improvement.

  • Improves the water retention and nutrient capacity of sandy soils.

  • Increases drainage in heavy clay soils.

  • Weed suppression.

  • Soil temperature control.

  • Reuse kitchen waste.

  • Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.

  • Disintegrates quickly upon application.

  • It releases nutrients slowly so the fertilizer doesn't burn.

  • Plant root protection.

  • Disease prevention.

  • Reduced need for aeration.

  • Attract wildlife.

  • Can smell.

  • It needs time to disassemble before use.

  • Not as good for weed suppression as other mulch types.

  • If you plan to use compost on something other than your lawn, such as a vegetable garden, you cannot use chemically treated mowed lawns. Chemicals may not be safe for other plant types.

Pine needles

Are there pine trees in your yard?

Those fallen needles also make great mulch for your lawn. Crush them with a shredder or throw them in the compost pile. If you decide to compost, make sure it's less than 10% of your compost heap.

You may have heard that pine needles acidify the soil. Pine needles are acidic when they fall from the tree, but are neutralized as they decompose. There should be no significant pH change during use.


  • Cheap or free

  • Visually appealing

  • Keep in place

  • Air, water and nutrients penetrate easily.

  • Good smell

  • Compression resistance

  • Long life

  • There is a risk of fire

  • If the layer is too thick, it prevents moisture penetration.


Straw has many uses, but it can be used as mulch for lawns and other landscaping. Best suited for newly sown lawns. It is accessible and inexpensive, but must be purchased from a reputable seller. Straw may contain weed or grain seeds that can sprout on your lawn and ruin its appearance.

  • Easily accessible

  • Cheap

  • Perfect for newly sown lawns.

  • Compression resistance

  • Soil temperature control

  • May contain weed or grain seeds.

  • A thick layer provides shelter for pests.

  • A thin layer may be blown off.

  • They break down quickly and require more frequent replacement.

  • Highly flammable

  • Not visually appealing

When is the best time to apply mulch?

Apply mulch in the early stages of growth, before weeds germinate or just after planting new grass. This will help your lawn utilize nutrients and prevent weed growth.

How much mulch should I apply?

Mulch can be several inches thick in landscaping, flower beds, and garden beds, but that's because it adds aesthetic appeal and prevents plants from growing in the covered area. You don't want to completely cover the grass because you still want to see it and don't want to choke it.

If you're already using your lawn mower, leaves, or pine needles on your lawn, don't worry about adding more. You just need to make sure there aren't too many of them. If the mulch layer seems to be choking the grass, it's likely so. Use a mulching mower if foliage or other plant material covers less than 50% of the lawn, or bag or reuse elsewhere if it covers more than 50% of the lawn.

If topping with compost, a 1/4-inch layer is sufficient. If you use hay to make your lawn, use one bale of straw for every 1000 square feet.

Benefits of fertilizing your lawn with mulch

Mulching does more than add nutrients to your turf. It also offers the following benefits:

  • Reduces the need for fertilizer.

  • Prevent evaporation.

  • Reduced weed growth.

  • Moderate soil temperature.

  • Erosion protection.

  • Limit the spread of soil-borne diseases.

  • Soil structure improvement.

  • It prevents hardening of the soil surface which inhibits water absorption.

  • Prevent soil compaction

  • Promote root growth

  • Benefits to Earthworms and Microbes

DIY mulching can save time and money by reusing yard waste that needs to be removed. However, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that your mulching experience is positive.

  • Do not over-apply mulch.

Too much mulch can suffocate the grass, preventing air, water, and nutrients from reaching the soil.

  • Turn the stored mulch over regularly.

Without proper airflow, mulch piles can become dangerously acidic to grasses and other plants. This process is especially important for mulch like compost. Turn the mulch pile over once or twice a month more if wet.

  • Keep an eye out for mold, pests and fungi.

Organic mulch can harbor all these threats, especially if it is too thick or damp. If you see these problems, remove the affected mulch. You don't want to accidentally spray it on your lawn.

Do I need to fertilize my lawn when I mulch it?

Mulch on its own is usually not enough to provide all the nutrients your lawn needs, but it can reduce the amount you need to use. Get a lab soil test to see which nutrients still need to be replenished.


When should you not mulch your lawn?

Do not use mulch such as clippings, leaves, or pine needles if they are wet or show signs of disease.

Is it better to put the mowed grass in a bag or leave it there?

Generally, mowing does not need to be bagged. Recycling nutrients back is more beneficial to your lawn. But if your grass is sick or too much, it's better to put it in a bag.

If you or a member of your family has a grass allergy, you can also put the clippings in a bag. If you don't like the messy look, throw the cuttings into the compost or use them as mulch elsewhere in the yard.

When hiring a pro

Mulching can be simple if you have a lawn mower, but it can be tricky without one. You also need to decide what type of mulch is best for you, buy it, and spread it evenly.

If you don't want to get out your calculator or buy a new lawn mower, why not hire a professional to do it for you? 10X Landscaping can connect you with an experienced lawn care professional who can mow, mulch and maintain your lawn.

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