Rain makes mowing tough

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

I’m starting to lose count, but in the Lansing area I think we’re up to 10 days in a row of rain. The biggest struggle in managing turf with this type of weather is finding a time to mow. 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 is 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 by mowing when the soil is wet or saturated. Unfortunately at some point you’re probably not going to have any choice and you’re going to need to mow even if the soil is wet. Just keep this in mind and make sure to schedule a core aeration at some point in the future to alleviate any compaction you may have created by mowing on wet soils. This, of course, is of greater concern for those using riding mowers than for a homeowner using a push behind walk mower.

Due to all of this rain you may notice that poorly drained turf areas where water has been sitting for several days may be 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.

Many other turf areas that are relatively well drained are actually looking very good after this recent deluge of rain. The dry conditions prior to the rain had many turf areas looking chlorotic (i.e. yellow) and all of those spring fertilizer applications should really start kicking in now with the moisture. You’re going to need to keep the mower engines idling to keep up with the turf growth in the coming weeks.

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