The short answer is "Yes". That said, keep reading for important considerations should you decide to mow a wet lawn.
When people ask for the best way to mow a wet lawn, it’s often tempting to say, “wait ‘til it's dry.” It's safe to say mowing a wet lawn isn't ideal. When grass is wet, many of the blades are bent double under the weight of water, meaning they’re simply missed by the mower as it passes. This results in a rougher, less even lawn finish.
A big negative to mowing a wet lawn is the increased chances of creating ruts. Wet grass clippings tend to clump together, clogging up the mower deck and blocking the entrance to the grass catcher. In extreme cases, mowers can struggle to mow wet grass, causing them to overheat.
While there’s no denying that mowing wet grass is less than ideal, there’s also no denying that the weather is outside our control. Protracted spells of rain (when it falls so frequently that your grass never gets a chance to fully dry) are an occasional, unavoidable fact of life. In these unavoidable instances, it’s important to follow a few basic rules to ensure your lawn gets the best possible cut. These tips will minimize the negative impact on your lawn and equipment.
The Risks and Challenges
Increased Safety Hazards
Mowing a wet lawn comes with a set of safety hazards. Wet grass creates slippery conditions, increasing the risk of accidents. Additionally, it can pose dangers to the lawn mower itself.
The slope and terrain of your lawn play a crucial role in determining whether it's safe and practical to mow when the grass is wet.
- Steep Slopes: If your lawn has significant slopes or inclines, mowing wet grass can be particularly challenging and potentially dangerous. When grass is wet, the soil becomes more slippery, making it difficult to maintain your footing on steep terrain.
- On steep slopes, the risk of losing control of your lawn mower increases, potentially leading to accidents. In such situations, it's advisable to avoid mowing when the grass is wet, as safety should always be the top priority.
- Uneven ground: Lawns with uneven terrain, such as bumps, divots, or tree roots, can make mowing wet grass more challenging. Uneven ground can result in an uneven cut and increase the risk of tripping or stumbling.
- Clumping and clogging: Wet grass may clump together more readily on uneven terrain, which can clog the mower's discharge chute and hinder its performance. This can result in an irregular cut and the need for more frequent stops to clear clippings.
Mowing on Sloped or Uneven Terrain
When you have a lawn with significant slopes or uneven terrain, it's essential to exercise caution when mowing under wet conditions. Here are some recommendations for managing these situations:
- Evaluate the risk: Assess the steepness and characteristics of your lawn's slopes and terrain. If the terrain is too challenging to navigate safely when wet, consider delaying your mowing until conditions improve.
- Use a self-propelled mower: Self-propelled lawnmowers are designed to make mowing on slopes and uneven terrain easier. If you have such terrain, using a self-propelled mower can enhance stability and control.
- Mow diagonally: Instead of mowing a slope up and down or lengthwise, split the difference by mowing diagonally. The mower will be more stable and produces a better cut.
Impact on Lawn Health
Wet grass can affect your lawn's health in several ways. Mowing in damp conditions can result in soil compaction, hindering the grass's ability to grow and thrive. Additionally, the increased moisture provides an ideal breeding ground for disease and fungal growth, which can harm the grass.
1. Disease Development:
Favorable Conditions: Wet grass provides an ideal environment for the development and spread of various lawn diseases. Fungal spores and pathogens thrive in moisture, and when the grass remains wet for an extended period, it becomes susceptible to infection. Mowing wet grass with a dull mower blade further increases the likelihood of lawn diseases taking hold.
Common Lawn Diseases: Some common lawn diseases that may develop in wet conditions include dollar spot, brown patch, and rust. These diseases can cause discoloration, dead patches, and overall deterioration of your lawn's appearance.
Related reading: Managing Winter Lawn Disease
2. Fungal Growth:
Fungi and Moisture: Fungi are microorganisms that are naturally present in your lawn. However, they become problematic when conditions are excessively moist. Fungi can multiply rapidly, causing visible symptoms on the grass.
Symptoms of Fungal Growth: Fungal growth can manifest as dark or discolored spots, often with a fuzzy or powdery appearance on the grass blades. This can be unsightly and affect the overall aesthetics of your lawn.
Dollar Spot: Dollar spot, for example, is a common fungal disease that appears as small, round, straw-colored spots on the grass, usually about the size of a silver dollar. It's more likely to develop in humid conditions, including when the grass is wet. We recommend using Pillar SC fungicide or Headway-G fungicide, as they control dollar spot, brown patch, and many species of lawn fungi on warm and cold-season grass.
Related reading: Turf Wars: How to Treat Lawn Fungus
Quality of the Cut
When you mow wet grass, the quality of the cut can also suffer. Wet grass is more likely to form clumps, making it difficult for your mower to evenly distribute clippings. This results in an uneven mowing job, leaving your lawn looking less than desirable. A sharp mower is one of the most important factors for getting good results should you decide to mow a wet lawn.
Ideal Mowing Conditions
The suitability of mowing in wet conditions depends on several factors. The type of grass you have, the prevailing weather conditions, and your lawn's slope and terrain all play a role in determining whether it's the right time to mow.
Best Times to Mow
To ensure the best results, consider mowing mid-morning or late afternoon when the grass is less likely to be wet from dew or rain. Choose days when the weather is dry and cool. Avoid mowing during or immediately after heavy rain.
Tips for Assessing Lawn Readiness
Before you decide to mow, perform a touch test. If the grass is wet to the touch, it's likely too wet to mow. A visual inspection of the lawn can also help you gauge the moisture content. Dewy grass may be suitable for mowing, but rain-soaked grass should be avoided.
If your turf appears waterlogged, postpone cutting until conditions improve. Saturated soil will rut easily, turning to mud under the wheels of the average gas-powered walk-behind mower and certainly larger zero-turn and commercial mowers.
Cutting damp grass is an entirely different process to cutting soaked grass, and although mowing in wet conditions is a judgment call, there is one situation that should be avoided at all costs. If you have the type of plug-in, corded mower that’s suitable for smaller lawn spaces, do not use an electric mower in wet or even very damp conditions. Electricity and water are never a happy partnership.
If You Have to Mow, Here’s How
If you absolutely have to mow your lawn while it’s wet, we recommend following the steps below to make life as easy as possible for you, your grass-cutting equipment, and your property.
1. Prepare Your Lawn
Before cutting wet grass, you can often remove some excess water by dragging a length of hose pipe over your lawn like a squeegee. Sometimes excess water can also be removed by pushing it to the lawn edges with a wide, soft-bristle broom.
2. Prepare Your Lawn Mower
Should you mow your lawn when it’s wet, it’s better to use a gas-powered mower that’s sufficiently powerful to manage cutting wet grass without overheating. If the ground feels spongy from waterlogging, remember that using large, heavy ride-on mowers risks rutting and damaging your turf.
Wet grass is easier to tear when mowing, weakening the turf and leaving it more susceptible to fungal and other grass diseases, so make sure your lawn mower's blades are properly sharpened before cutting wet grass.
Nothing clogs up a mower faster than wet grass. To help manage this while mowing a wet lawn (and avoid constantly stopping to clear the mower deck and unblock the chute), ensure the mower deck is clean before beginning the cut. Then apply a mower deck spray or a silicone spray. This will create a non-stick coating over the mower deck that will help prevent the build-up of wet grass cuttings.
Raise the height of your lawnmower one to two settings above where you normally cut your grass. Follow the ‘one-third’ rule to take off just the top third of the wet grass.
Cut and Finish
Before cutting wet grass, make sure you’re wearing protective, non-slip footwear on your lawn. When operating your lawnmower, exercise extra caution to prevent slipping. Keeping a firm grip on the mower and avoiding sudden movements is crucial.
Keep your speed low and go slow to reduce stress on the mower blade, strain on the engine and to ensure the most even and thorough cut. Make frequent stops to clear clippings. Using a bagger attachment to collect clippings will also help provide a cleaner finish.
Wet grass is heavier, so empty the mower’s bag or collection box frequently to keep the weight down. This will reduce strain on the mower and make it less likely to cause ruts in the wet turf.
Maintain your lawn mower by keeping the blades sharp and adjusting the height according to the grass length. This will ensure a cleaner and more even cut. Additionally, take the time to clean your equipment after mowing.
After mowing, clean your equipment thoroughly, removing any accumulated grass and dirt. Thoroughly clean your mower and mower deck to prevent long-term damage, and regularly monitor your lawn for signs of damage and disease, as wet mowing can increase the risk of these issues.
Create a Well-Drained Lawn
Whether you’re an amateur gardener or a professional groundskeeper, one of the greatest advantages you can give yourself when it comes to mowing and managing grass in wet conditions is making sure you already have a well-drained lawn.
Ensuring rainwater can efficiently drain from the surface provides an immediate head start when it comes to mowing in the wet. If your lawn is always squishy after rain or water frequently collects in puddles across the surface, it likely needs drainage improvement.
Related reading: Muddy Backyard Solutions: How to Help Drainage for Lawns
There are several reasons that your lawn may become waterlogged after even a modest fall of rain. These include:
- Compacted soil
- Heavy clay soil
- Poor/underdeveloped grass root system
Soil compaction is often a common culprit when it comes to waterlogging. This is the natural result of heavy traffic in high-activity lawn areas, such as pathways or spaces where children play, which become increasingly more compressed until the soil forms a hard crust that inhibits drainage. Heavy clay soils naturally create conditions that retain too much water.
Core aeration of your lawn, which removes small (2” to 4”) plugs from your soil at regular intervals, is vital for keeping you lawn free from waterlogging. It helps break up compacted soil and will improve drainage in all areas, especially clay.
Related reading: How to Core Aerate Your Lawn
Grass for Wet Regions
There are over 100 different types of turf grass in the U.S. alone, grasses that have been developed for a wide variety of purposes and suit a range of climates.
If you live in an area prone to protracted spells of rain, it’s crucial to plant turfgrass that tolerates wet weather. Most turf grass doesn’t thrive in extremely wet conditions for extended periods. That said, certain grasses can cope with moist and sometimes saturated soil better than others.
Fortunately, some of our most popular lawn grass, fescues, and ryegrasses grow well in wet conditions and can withstand some periods of waterlogging. Bermuda grass withstands seasonal heavy rain well but has trouble growing in shaded areas, so it is primarily recommended for open lawns.
St Augustine grass handles heavy rain much the same way as Bermuda grass and will grow well in shade, but it doesn’t do well if it has to remain in standing water for long periods. Buffalo grass is one of the hardiest lawn grasses, able to withstand spells of drought, cold and wet, thanks to its deep roots system, making it a popular choice.
Zoysia doesn't do well in waterlogged soils. It's more prone to diseases if it grows in saturated soil for extended periods. Focusing on improving drainage via core aeration and top dressing should be a top priority if your lawn is Zoysia.
There are also plenty of specialist suppliers who sell grass seed mixes formulated for wet soil and saturated areas, such as regions with heavy clay and areas that endure particularly wet winters.
You can learn more about which grass is best for where you are here: Which Grass type Is Best Suited to My Area?
Can you mow wet grass is a decision you’ll have to make on a case-by-case basis, but understanding your lawn and following the advice above should help you mow wet grass with a little more confidence.
Related reading: Step-By-Step Guide for Getting a Golf Course Lawn
Shop now at the Golf Course Lawn Store for products that will keep your lawn healthy in all weather conditions.