Grass Clippings Homemade Manure – 06-27-24

Earlier in the month, I shared a very simple approach for creating “Homemade Manure” (HMM), using grass clippings and damp cardboard/paper (and a little “living material” for good measure). I ended up leaving that bin to sit for almost exactly 3 weeks, down in my basement, before putting the material to use.

As you can see in the first image below, the volume reduction was pretty incredible by that point!

It’s important to point out, however, that the cardboard and paper was almost exactly the same, structurally, as when I added it. It was a super, simple, “lazy” preparation (which saved me a lot of time), and I knew there would be some additional steps required to make the mix more worm-bin-ready.

Those “additional steps” were pretty minimal – basically just coarsely tearing up the bedding and mixing everything really well.

The final appearance was surprisingly similar to a fairly fresh, bedded horse manure (that had been mixed with paper-based bedding materials, instead of the more typical straw or wood shavings). I picked up some pungent ammonia smells while handling material, and noticed a lot of tiny flies – very similar to what you would see in a fairly new heap of manure sitting outside.

I layered the HMM at the top of my hybrid tray system – which had been recenty rebooted (hoping to write more about this system soon) – and waited to see what would happen. There are lots of Red Worms in this bin, so a big initial question was how quickly they’d start moving into the material.

Over the next handful of days, I noticed some interesting things happening: 1) the worms stayed down, refusing to move into the material at all, and 2) thousands of tiny mites attempted to evacuate the system, coating the side walls and underside of the plastic sheet I use as a cover.

Over the years, I have encountered these mites quite a few times. They seem to be quite sensitive to shifting conditions in a worm bin – so I see them as a good potential “indicator species” (be sure to check out “From Bad to Worse – Sour Worm Bin Decline” for an even more extreme example of this behavior).

In this particular case, I suspect it was the ammonia release that was making them want to leave. This seemed to be supported by the worms’ refusal to invade the new layer.

5 to 7 days later, it was almost like a switch got flipped…

I turned on the lights in the morning, pulled up the cover, and could see lots of worms all through the HMM.

Since that time, a pretty significant flush of mushrooms has popped up as well.

NOTE: The plants you see below are sunflower seedlings that have popped up from seeds I tossed in.

I’m still seeing a lot of tiny flies in the system – but these aren’t remotely as annoying as fruit flies or fungus gnats, since they mostly stay in/on the HMM.

All in all, this has been really interesting/fun experiment – and definitely makes me want to test out even more HMM mixes in the months ahead.

Stay tuned (and be sure to share your thoughts below)!

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Simple Homemade Manure Using Grass Clippings & Cardboard


    • Joey Taylor
    • June 27, 2024

    I started a HMM bucket a little over a week ago, the volume of materials has dropped about 2 percent inches since I began.

    • Tim McIlraith
    • June 27, 2024

    BentIey, I always enjoy your informative practical emails. There’s only one problem – they don’t come often enough.
    Signed: Hungry Worm Tim.

    • Brooke Warkentin
    • June 28, 2024

    Very interesting experiment.
    I wonder if mixing the bin a couple times a week while it’s “cooking” would make a difference in the amount of ammonia it produces. I would think having some air added throughout would help it off gas a bit better so that’s it’s closer to worm ready from the start.
    Definitely something to keep playing with since the materials are free, vs the original version that I use as a base for my worm bedding and supplemental feedings. The old version does have a smell too since the alfalfa can ferment as it’s breaking down if too much is added or it’s too wet. It’s something I’ve played with a lot and the worms really love it. If we didn’t have so many marrow weeds going to see right now I’d try it out. Maybe once I can manage to get them all pulled and cleared out. Although I’m sure the seeds would be easy to sift out if they don’t sprout in the bin…hum… On second thought I may just try this now even with all the possible seeds in the mix.
    Do you think this produces enough heat to kill seeds? I know the other HMM can get up to 135F when using a compost tumbler indoors, not sure if this would as well.
    Thanks B! Always look forward to your new trials.

    • Bentley
    • June 28, 2024

    JOEY – That’s great! I’m not quite sure I have a handle on your volume reduction, though. 🙂

    TIM – Thank-you! Going to do my best to “spam” you more in the months ahead 😆

    BROOKE – Always nice to hear from you! There are definitely ways one could take a less “lazy” approach, and optimize the process. Something like partially composted leaf litter or some other decent living material (in larger amounts than what was added in this case) would likely make a big difference, with the added benefit of locking in more of that off-gassed N, rather than simply losing it from the system.
    Seed-killing heat is certainly possible with a big enough system. In this case, I was using a modest sized HDX bin, down in my (cool) basement, so it definitely wouldn’t have reached those temps. As you know, I actually like seeds (considering the fact that I actually toss them into my systems regularly – haha), so it’s never something I worry about.

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