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What To Do With a Waterlogged Lawn

Don’t let an overly wet season bog you down.

Some seasons, wetter-than-usual weather becomes the new norm. And at first, you might appreciate the change-up: Relentless rain calls for a break from yard work, right? But when spring in Tucson resembles fall in Seattle, or you experience seasonal oddities in your region, it's time to rethink your lawn care game.

If Mother Nature decides to set her irrigation timer to the "on" position all day, every day, at your house, you might find yourself dealing with funky-colored grass, soil erosion, moss, fungus, and even fire ants. (That vacation from lawn duties doesn't sound so appealing now, does it?) Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent a waterlogged lawn, as well as solutions for getting it back into green, springy shape.

Here's the lowdown on how to prevent potential problems and treat those that may have escaped you, as well as a little bit of science geekiness for good measure. This way you can enjoy your greenspace from a lawn chair instead of a canoe.


How To Prevent a Waterlogged Lawn

Unless you're a rain shaman, you don't have much control over when the sky decides to open up—but you do have power over your lawn care routine. So, if the extended forecast calls for a wetter-than-usual season, use these tips to head off any setbacks.

  • Improve soil drainage. Well-drained soil does exactly what it sounds like—it allows water to drain quickly so your lawn doesn't become bogged down, yet slowly enough that roots can still absorb what they need from it. If the soil in your yard is heavy (you'll know it if it looks like a lake the day after rain), you can loosen it up through aeration or improve its structure by spreading a thin (½ inch or less) layer of compost on top of your grass (it'll act like a sponge).
  • Get your mind into the gutter. Have you cleaned your gutters lately? What about nearby storm drains or that French drain alongside your patio? Any part of your property that plays a role in directing water where it needs to go should be given the utmost respect. Carve out some quality time to see if those channels are functioning—unless your idea of fun is a newly formed gully in the side yard caused by a clogged gutter. Pay attention to your tree maintenance, too. Cutting back branches will let more sunlight reach your lawn so it can dry out faster.
  • Keep your lawn resilient. Grass that's feeling good about itself is much more capable of shrugging off undesirable conditions. While no yard—healthy or otherwise—will survive long if submerged in water, those with strong roots can bounce back instead of completely folding under stress. The way to make sure your lawn is living its best life is by feeding, mowing, and watering it at the right time. Keep tabs on it without a lot of effort on your part by enrolling in the Scotts® Program, which sends you the products you need when you need them.  


How To Save Wet Grass

Let's say you were so busy doing a retro rock-out to CCR's greatest hits that you didn't see the bad moon rising or the trouble on the way. Now you have a soggy lawn on your hands. What can you do about it? Here are 5 problems linked to overly wet grass and how to fix them.

  1. Discoloration: When soil is saturated with water, soil oxygen levels take a dive. (There's that nerdy info we promised you.) What does this mean for your lawn? Well, its ability to uptake water and nutrients is compromised, its root hairs die, and your grass turns brown or yellow. Since you can't just put a hat on your yard and pretend everything's fine, wait for it to dry out and then treat it with Scotts® Turf Builder® SummerGuard® Lawn Food with Insect Control. It'll strengthen your lawn and build its confidence back to where it was before the bad hair days started.
  2. Soil erosion: Extensive rainfall or a strong storm can easily lead to soil erosion, especially on sloping lawns. If your lawn is thick and established, you're in good shape. But, if your lawn was patchy to begin with, or if you've recently put down grass seed, you may need to reseed for a fresh start. The same with fertilizer: If you gave your lawn a recent feeding, chances are you should pull out the spreader and give it another go—so long as the wet weather is behind you.
  3. Moss development: If a rolling stone gathers no moss, a lawn soaked in stagnant rain water surely will. Moss or algae aren't the worst problems to have on this list, but you still don't want the fuzzy stuff popping up in your yard. Either will eventually fill in any thin spots and make your lawn look less than ideal. So, rake it up and dispose of it as a short term fix, but to keep it from growing back, use Scotts® MossEx®. Apply it in winter and spring (following label directions), when moss is actively growing. Pruning trees on your property can also help tell moss or algae to take a hike—sunlight is not their thing.
  4. Fungal issues: Overly wet grass is an open invitation to all sorts of fungal diseases in your lawn, including yellow patch, powdery mildew, and Southern blight. They might sound exotic, but having one of these show up is no party at all. Keep an eye out for discolored grass, dead rings, or irregular patches of ailing grass. Each disease has its own characteristics, but in general they can be treated with fast-acting Scotts® DiseaseEx™ Lawn Fungicide (follow all label directions).  
  5. Fire ants: Southerners know all too well the plague of fire ants. Their mounds and hills seemingly appear out of nowhere after a good rain. Why? Because fire ants move to the surface to avoid drowning. It's pretty genius on their part, but they can become a literal pain for you to deal with. Outsmart fire ants with Scotts® Turf Builder® Southern Triple Action, which gets rid of them while feeding your lawn and killing weeds to boot.


How to Mow Wet Grass

Regular mowing is a big part of looking after your lawn, so that sort of begs the question: During a rainy stretch, is it okay to mow? The answer is yes, but not like you normally would. That makes sense, since we're not dealing with typical weather, either. Here's how to mow wet grass.

  • Wait until it's less wet: Timing is everything. Don't mow your lawn when there are pools of water or it's still way too soggy. Test it out by standing on the grass for a few minutes. If any water incircles your shoes, wait for it to dry out a bit.
  • Push, don't ride: Yep, your shoes are going to get dirty, but opt for a push mower once you finally do the deed. Riding lawn mowers are heavy, and can cause some serious soil compaction when the ground is really wet.
  • Sharpen those blades: Make sure your mower blades are razor-sharp so they can easily break up clumps of wet grass. Any lawn mower repair shop can file them for you. If you've never had this done, consider this your reminder.
  • Leave the clippings: Skip the bag and leave grass clippings to dry on the lawn. That said, make sure you rake out any clumps so they don't suffocate the grass under them.
  • Resist mowing low: All that rain means your grass has probably grown pretty tall. Stick to the ⅓ rule once you resume mowing (only cut off the top third at any one time). Less is more here, so resist giving your lawn a buzz cut. 

Preventing and treating a waterlogged lawn doesn't have to be a drainer. Follow these tips when the rain just won't quit, and you'll keep your grass from becoming a wet mess.