Is Sawdust Good for Your Grass?

In the search for excellent lawn maintenance products and turf amendments, a few factors are necessary to consider. The type of lawn you have, a meadow lawn, short summer grass, the cost of amendments, and the overall benefits all impact what we choose to add to our lawns and gardens. Not just anything we drop on the ground will aid our beautiful yards, so care must always be taken.

Key Points:

  • Sawdust is not a good lawn mulch and may harm your turf more than help it.
  • Sawdust can smother grass and attract pests, leading to expensive repairs.
  • Sawdust is only useful when used short-term to mark paths or to suppress weeds prior to landscaping.

Natural substances like wood are always good for garden amendment, and wood shavings are a cheap source of carbon for the compost. Is it possible that dry sawdust sprinkled on lawns will improve the leaves of grass or add nutrients to the soil, and is sawdust good for grass?

Let’s find out! 

Will Sawdust Kill Grass?

Dumping anything heavy or with too much moisture and leaving it on your turf for a week will almost certainly kill your grass. Sawdust left after chopping down a tree in a storm, for example, may very well hold enough moisture to wipe out a patch of your turf, making it a decent option for weed suppression or to form garden beds.

Large amounts of sawdust will smother your grass. 

Even though the size of sawdust is right to make a good soil amendment, it actually steals nutrients from the soil instead of adding them. While the nitrogen component of the soil isn’t really lost, the microbes in the soil use additional nitrogen to break down the bed of sawdust, leaving less hot nitrogen material for grass to grow with.

Fresh sawdust is the worst culprit, as pre-broken down wood will have already begun giving back to the microbes through looser and looser carbon bonds and more bioavailable macronutrients for plant roots. 

Sawdust is a proven substrate for abundant fungal growth and is commonly used in industries that cultivate mushrooms. In hot, humid, and damp conditions, sawdust may become a fertile ground for fungal spores to spread and innoculate.

While most fungal species are helpful or at least not harmful to your own, some mushrooms can be toxic to humans and animals and may take away from the appearance of your lush lawn. 

Dry material on lawns can attract insect pests looking for food, nesting material, or shelter. Termites and ants especially may take the appearance of sawdust as an indicator that your lawn is the perfect place for a new colony. Without a comprehensive pest control program, you may invite serious expenses onto your property by leaving sawdust lying around. 

Most of the time, sawdust on its own will not kill grass in the same way an herbicide will, but too much can be deadly. There are cases where trees and wood have been treated with chemicals that may affect turf and the soil microbes underground in your lawn.

Make sure you know where the sawdust is coming from if bringing it home from offsite, or make sure not to use poisons or chemicals harmful to turf grass immediately before cutting down plants that will generate sawdust. 

Is Sawdust a Decent Lawn Mulch?

Sawdust is not a good lawn mulch and may harm your turf more than help it. In most cases, larger wood chips or gravel will be better than sawdust for permanent or long-term mulches. Sawdust can blow away and will need much more care and attention than any other type of mulch.

Using sawdust short-term to mark out paths and kill turf before landscaping is a reasonable option and a good way to get rid of extra sawdust.

While technically, sawdust can cover bare earth and may suppress weeds; it comes with issues that make it inferior to other mulches. The clumping nature of sawdust when it is exposed to moisture, for example, is less desirable than woodchips that stay in place but are sweet to absorb the water and slow the runoff.

Sawdust also breaks down quickly, can blow away, and steals nitrogen from the soil preventing green grass near where the sawdust is applied. Other mulches are preferred to sawdust mulch. 

Uses for Sawdust

Even if dumping sawdust on your lawn isn’t a good idea, that doesn’t mean that there are no uses for the material. If you have accumulated your share of wood shavings and want some ideas, look no further. Below are some of the best uses for the piles of sawdust you find yourself in possession of. 

Compost CarbonCollect sawdust and toss it into your compost heap, compost pile, or compost binAdds carbon-rich material to help offset typically nitrogen dominant home compost systems
Weed SuppressionCut weeds low and spread a 1/2 inch of wet sawdust over plantsPrevents sunlight and oxygen from getting to the plant leaves and roots, killing them slowly 
Path and Landscaping AdditionsLayer down a thick layer, at least half an inch deep, along areas of the lawn you want to renovateAllows you to remove sod without labor and helps with planting by providing a worker layer of broken-down sawdust as topsoil
Clean Up SpillsFor a clean lawn, lay sawdust down anywhere there was a spill or some other liquid or viscous substance that needs attending to and then shovel it or vacuum it up when the mess is dried Saw dust is light and absorbent, making it ideal for sopping up messes from liquids spilling onto your lawn 
Cover FecesDrop a handful of sawdust on animal droppings in your lawn to make it easier to clean up, and add some carbon to the excess nitrogen that may cause an issue for lawns Wet poo is hard to pick up and smelly too; dropping sawdust on doo-doo can make it easier to scoop, and any sawdust left on the soil will breakdown, adding carbon and rebalancing the grasses for lawn nutrients
Temporary Fill in HolesPour sawdust in holes from gophers, weed or plant removal, and water erosion to provide a temporary fix preventing the hole from growingHoles that are exposed can be inhabited by pests, fill with water and erode, or catch your ankle; either way, a dumping of sawdust can make it far less dangerous to have holes in your lawn
Seed Starter Mulch Lay a thin layer of sawdust over newly sowed grass seed to help protect the seeds from sun, intense water force, and pests In addition to being a quickly degrading green waste, sawdust can help reduce compaction from a lawnmower when areas of the earth are uneven, preventing you from scalping new sprouts 

Will Sawdust Help or Harm Turf?

Most of the time, sawdust will harm and not help turf if laid on top with no care or technique employed. If you do dump sawdust, you will need to supplement with blood meal and other soil amendments to offset the nitrogen loss soil microbes will produce while breaking down the sawdust.

If this is done, it’s like aging compost directly on your soil which is not really harmful but not as beneficial as just topdressing your lawn in spring with finished compost. 

Even though sawdust is considered a green waste, it will not give much to the lawn in terms of fertility and may attract pests and grow fungi. The nitrogen component of sawdust is non-existent, and its absorptive properties and naturally wooden essence attract fungi and pests. Each of these lifeforms may bring additional issues to your lawn. 

There are no real benefits to lawns that have sawdust added to them except in the most minor and immediate sense that it adds more organic matter to the soil. Therefore, sawdust is better used in a compost pile.

If some sawdust accumulates on a lawn from felling a tree or pruning branches, it will not harm an established lawn but needs to be dealt with pretty quickly. Rake the pile into a thin layer to avoid suffocating the turf, or use one of the sawdust removal techniques below. 

If you want to collect the sawdust, it can be mixed with grass clippings and used to make compost tea or other soil additives for a healthy lawn. This is a way to quickly utilize lawn scrapes and give your soil microbes the nutrients and liquids they need to build healthy roots and strong green turf.

Dispose of the tea debris in the compost for triple-action composting. 

How to Remove Sawdust from Lawns?

It can be daunting to try and remove sawdust from your lawn after a large project. Cutting wood, whether for gardening or yard maintenance, crafts, or construction, results in ridiculous amounts of sawdust piling up everywhere. If this happens on your lawn, you will want to remove it before it causes problems for your turf. Read on to find out some proven methods of sawdust removal. 

By Hand

Grabbing and tossing can be a quick way to complete this task and move on to other chores. This is best done when the amount of sawdust is small, and the piles are together. But before gabbing it, there are some things you can do to make it a bit easier. The best thing to do is to wet the sawdust. 

When you wet the sawdust gently, it will clump together and make it easier to grab clumps. Less of the sawdust will fall from your hands, and you can fill your bag or bucket quickly. Once the bag is full, you can either dispose of your sawdust in the green bin or use it for one of the lawn maintenance ideas in the table above. 

Rake or Broom

Using a combination of a rake to move damp sawdust to spots in the lawn where it is easy to pick up is a great strategy. Less labor intensive than hand scooping the piles using these tools can save you time and your back from intense discomfort.

Rake as much sawdust as you can onto a solid surface like a sidewalk or driveway. Then use a broom and dustpan to scoop it up and put it into a bag or container for further use. 

Any leftover sawdust can be left alone to break down but add a good nitrogen fertilizer to increase the nitrogen content and prevent a common nitrogen deficiency that dulls the healthiest lawns. Lots of sawdust cannot be left on the soil, or it may kill turf, so make sure to repeat the first steps until one a thin layer is still on the grass.

Dry sawdust may blow away, but damp sawdust will need to be removed quickly.

Lawn Mower

Most lawnmowers have blades designed to create lift and suck up grass clippings as it passes over. Lawn owners often use this same feature to help collect leaves in the fall, and whatever doesn’t get picked up is broken down into finer mulch. Mowing over sawdust can also help pick up the piles if you have the right mower and attachments. 

Without a bag, this technique may result in more of a mess spreading the sawdust around and making it even harder to pile up. While this dispersal method may be good for some uses, if removing the sawdust is your desire, it is better to attach a catchment system.

Make sure to use a blade designed to suck up clippings and not one that mulches and spreads it out, as sawdust is too fine to be affected by mower blades. 

Leaf Blower/Vacuum 

A leafblower and/or shop vac can also make quick work of your little sawdust problem. Common in the construction field, blowing or sweeping your sawdust into a corner where a vacuum can hit it in one go is just as effective in lawns.

You may need to use an extension cord and work harder to build piles, but you can blow or rake the dust until it is one big pile that can be cornered. Use the vacuum to suck up everything that is left, and then add the vacuum content to your compost to finish the job.