Mowing turf through the rain

Mowing your lawn while turf is still wet may cause more damage than good.

When it comes to turf management, it’s been a relatively slow spring and I actually haven’t even had the need to mow my lawn until the last couple days when the rain really started pounding down. Now thoughts of mowing seem like complete lunacy. To this point, the urgency to mow turfgrass has probably been lacking, but now that turf is really growing, the challenge is deciding whether or not to try mowing on saturated soils or just letting the turfgrass continue to grow until the soils dry.

We often get questions about mowing turf when it’s wet and whether or not this is detrimental to the turf. Generally, mowing turf when it’s wet is not a problem for the turf, but may be a problem for your mower. Some mowers may start to clog up when mowing wet turf, especially if the turf is a little taller than you’d like. Besides issues with the mower clogging, mowing wet turf will dull the mower blade quicker than if you are always mowing dry turf.

In addition to mower issues, and certainly more important in the long run, is the potential to compact the soil or do significant damage to the turf by turning or slipping of mower wheels when the soil is saturated. This, of course, is of greater concern for those using riding mowers or larger commercial mowing equipment than for a homeowner using a push-behind walk mower. I would advise you to wait on mowing until the puddles under your feet have subsided, otherwise you may do more damage than good.

You may also notice that the turf in poorly drained areas or in areas where downspouts discharge may be turning yellow or brown. There are several reasons for the discoloration, but one of the main reasons is impairment of the root system. It doesn’t take long once the soil is saturated for soil oxygen levels to decline and root hairs to begin to die. As the turf’s root system becomes impaired, nutrient extraction and water uptake will be limited, which causes the discoloration.

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