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As homeowners, we've all faced the dilemma of whether to tackle the task of mowing our grass when it's damp from rain or morning dew. While it may be tempting to grab the lawnmower and get the job done, there are important factors to consider before taking that leap. In this article, we'll delve into the potential risks and consequences of mowing wet grass. Read on to find out more.
Why it’s best to let the soil dry a little first
Often after a long period of rain, the grass can become a bit too long for our liking. Although it can be tempting to mow wet grass as soon as the rain stops, it is best to wait until the lawn is dry. Not only will waiting an extra day or two make mowing easier, but it will also be healthier for your lawn and give you a better result.
Still tempted? Let’s look at a few reasons why mowing when in wet weather is such a bad idea.
Mowing a wet lawn
Uneven surface and cut
When mowing on wet, soft soil, ruts can easily form, which causes deviations in the lawn levels and creates an uneven finish. Ruts can sometimes be so deep that topsoil is required to bring the levels back up again. If the soil is so soft that the mower gets stuck, the turf underneath may even get ripped up, leaving unsightly bare areas.
Compounding these problems is that wet grass blades tend not to stand as tall as they usually would because water droplets weigh them down. The bent leaf blades mean that not all leaf blades will be cut evenly when mowing. When the lawn dries, and the leaf blades stand tall again, you’ll be left with an uneven, patchy look to your lawn.
It is best to wait until the lawn has dried out to preserve your lawn levels and ensure the cleanest, most even cut.
When the grass is wet, a mower will struggle to cleanly cut the lawn, and the leaves can often be torn or bruised. Cutting the blades cleanly is important for lawn health. When the blades are torn, it can cause stress to the lawn, compromising its overall health. But this is not the only way mowing when wet can harm your lawn’s health.
Normally when the lawn is mowed, the dry grass clippings can be scattered across the whole lawn, where they quickly break down and return the lost nutrients to the lawn.
However, wet grass clippings stick together into damp clumps that will not break down easily and can restrict airflow, sunlight, and fertiliser delivery to your lawn. Even worse, the damp conditions beneath the wet clippings provide the perfect conditions for fungal diseases such as brown spot. Hence, avoiding wet grass clumps or cutting very wet grass is best.
Mowing when wet isn’t good for your mower, either. The damp clumps of grass and muddy soil can get stuck underneath your mower, creating a build-up of debris that can, over time, interfere with mower blade movement and cause the parts to deteriorate. So, if you do choose to mow when there is moisture on the leaf, wipe out the lawn clippings from underneath the mower blades so that they do not build up over time.
Risk of slipping
Mowing the lawn when the grass is wet does, of course, mean you are more likely to slip, especially if you are mowing on a slope. Increasing this risk further is the fact that extra effort is usually required to push the mower through the wet grass. Therefore, slipping over when operating a mower with fast-rotating blades is a significant safety hazard.
Soil compaction and erosion
When the soil is saturated with water, the weight of the lawn mower and the foot traffic exerted during mowing can compact the soil particles, reducing pore spaces and restricting water infiltration. This compaction decreases the soil's ability to absorb and hold water, increasing the likelihood of runoff during heavy rainfall.
Runoff carries away loose topsoil, nutrients, and organic matter, which are essential for maintaining a healthy lawn. Over time, this erosion can lead to the loss of valuable topsoil, making it more difficult for grass to establish deep roots and impeding overall lawn health.
What about morning dew?
The moisture of morning dew sits mostly on the leaf and, unlike rain, doesn’t cause excessive amounts of water to accumulate within the soil. This means that mowing while there is still dew present on the leaf isn’t as much of a concern as mowing after rain.
Golf courses and some other facilities have no choice but to mow grass nice and early, even when there is dew still on the surface, and they manage to keep their grass beautifully manicured. But if you do have the option to wait until the dew has dissipated, that’s certainly preferable.