How to Compost an Existing Lawn


Composting is one of the best ways to turn the nutrients in grass clippings into a usable form. The compost is then spread over a lawn or garden as an enhancement. But what if the plants you want to compost are already on your lawn? Lawn grasses are an excellent source of nitrogen that can quickly be turned into compost. Either compost your grass directly on the lawn, or remove it and use it to create a compost pile.

Compost Sod

Step 1

Remove sod from your lawn in strips with a sod cutter. A sod cutter works similarly to a lawn mower, and will remove your sod in 16-inch-wide strips.

Step 2

Roll the sod directly away from the lawn soil. Pick up the sod rolls and carry them to a sunny location for your compost pile.

Step 3

Cut the sod strip into smaller squares, using a utility knife.

Step 4

Stack the sod squares in alternating layers. Turn each layer so that the same side touches the one above it and below it. In other words, the grass side should face up on your first layer. The second layer should be turned so that the grass faces down and the dirt side is upward. The third layer should be turned grass-side up. Continue this to create a compost pile at least 3 feet square, but no more than 5 feet square.

Step 5

Water the compost pile with a garden hose so that it is as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Leave the pile to decompose. You should have rich, black compost in about six months.

Compost in Place

Step 1

Place cardboard or a thick pad consisting of 10 sheets of newspaper directly onto your lawn.

Step 2

Cover the cardboard or paper with peat moss.

Step 3

Lay compost materials over the peat moss. The layers should alternate carbon-rich material such as straw, dead leaves and wood chip mulch and nitrogen-rich material such as vegetable scraps and peat moss. The carbon layers should be twice as thick as the nitrogen layers.

Step 4

Water the pile of material. The compost should be completely broken down in about six months.

Things You'll Need

  • Sod cutter
  • Utility knife
  • Garden hose
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Peat moss
  • Straw
  • Dead leaves
  • Vegetable trimmings
  • Wood chips


  • The University of Maine Cooperative Extension: How Compost Happens
  • University of Missouri Extension: Making and Using Compost
  • University of California: Removing Lawn
Keywords: composting grass, removing sod, creating compost

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."