Is constant rain bogging down your lawn? That much water can do a lot of damage to your grass. This guide is here to help you identify and solve some of the most common wet lawn problems, plus improve the drainage in your yard so you never face these problems again.
- 6 common lawn problems caused by wet grass (and how to fix them)
- How to prevent wet grass in the future
- FAQ about wet lawn problems
- Best watering practices for a healthy lawn
6 common lawn problems caused by wet grass (and how to fix them)
Your grass needs some water, but if you see puddles in your lawn for days after every rainstorm, that’s too much moisture for healthy grass. These are the problems to look out for in your waterlogged lawn.
1. Pest infestations
Many insect pests thrive in wet conditions, and a waterlogged lawn provides the perfect home for them.
Overly wet grass and soil will probably attract some of these common pests:
- Mosquitoes: flying parasites that cause skin irritation with their bites
- Fleas: biting, jumping little bugs that move from the lawn onto your pets
- Grubs: worm-like beetle larvae that feed on grassroots
- Leatherjackets: maggots of crane flies that feed on grassroots, leaves, and crowns
- Termites: wood-boring insects that can infest your home’s structure
- Carpenter ants: wood-boring ants that can infest your home’s structure, like termites
How to get rid of lawn pests: Apply insecticides or natural pest control treatments such as beneficial nematodes to the lawn. For a longer-lasting approach, attract or introduce natural insect predators to feed on the pests, including but not limited to birds, frogs, lizards, dragonflies, or spiders.
2. Fungal diseases
Lawn diseases infect and kill your grass, and most of them are caused by fungi. Those fungi grow well in dampness, so wet grass is a breeding ground for them.
Common lawn diseases caused by too much moisture:
- Brown patch: irregular patches of brown or yellowing grass
- Leaf spot/melting out: straw-colored or brown spots on grass blades
- Powdery mildew: white, mold-like growth on grass blades
- Red thread: wispy strands of pink or red growing on grass tips
How to get rid of lawn fungus: Apply fungicides to the infected areas of your lawn.
When there’s excess water in your soil, weeds don’t have to compete with the grass for resources because there’s plenty to go around. If your lawn stays wet for a long time, you’ll probably start seeing more weeds in your yard than usual.
How to get rid of weeds: Pull weeds by hand (roots and all) or apply post-emergent herbicides to kill existing weeds. If you don’t have weeds yet but expect them, apply pre-emergent herbicides to prevent them in the first place.
4. Soil erosion
Soil erosion is what happens when lots of rain washes away your topsoil. Topsoil is where plants take root and soak up their nutrients. In a spot without topsoil, you won’t be able to grow grass or plants successfully.
Erosion is typically at its worst on slopes, where the soil can easily slide downhill. Thin and patchy lawns also tend to have more issues with erosion. Dense, healthy lawns are better at holding on to their soil.
How to prevent erosion: If you have a sloped yard, break up the slope with terraces or retaining walls to keep it from eroding. Deep-rooted trees and plants prevent erosion, as well.
5. Nutrient-deficient grass
Excess water in your soil cuts off the grass’s access to oxygen, causes plant nutrients to leach out of the soil, and damages root hairs so grass can’t absorb the nutrients anyway. With a lack of nutrients, your grass will grow weak and may turn yellow or brown.
How to fix nutrient-deficient grass: Once you’ve solved your yard’s drainage issues, and your lawn is relatively dry again, add compost and/or fertilizer to replenish your soil’s nutrient supply.
6. Ineffective lawn treatments
While your lawn is still soaking wet, the treatments that would usually help it – such as fertilizers, weed control products, pesticides, or fungicides – might not do much at all. The water will wash these products away before they have a chance to soak into the soil.
How to make lawn treatments work again: Before you can effectively treat your lawn, you’ll need to correct drainage issues in your yard to help the grass dry out. We’ll go over ways to do that in the next section.
How to prevent wet grass in the future
You can treat the problems caused by a wet lawn as they arise, but those are the symptoms, not the cause. If you want to eliminate the aforementioned issues for good, you have to improve the drainage in your lawn so it doesn’t get waterlogged again.
Here are some ways to solve drainage issues, starting with the easiest and moving on to the more drastic.
Clean your gutters
Fixing your yard’s constant sogginess might be as simple as clearing out your gutters. When your gutters get clogged with leaves, dirt, and other debris, they overflow and dump water over their sides. Instead of flowing through the downspout to the appropriate spot, that rainwater ends up flooding your lawn.
Cleaning your gutters might be gross, but it’s pretty easy. Just set up a sturdy ladder and scoop out the debris by hand (with waterproof gloves) or with a small hand tool. Clean your gutters at least twice a year to keep them from getting clogged.
Thatch is a layer of dead grass clippings and other debris that builds up on top of your soil over time. Excessive thatch (thicker than ¾-inch) can block water’s access to the soil and make your lawn drain slowly after rain. Removing the thatch, aka dethatching, clears up the pathways to your soil and improves drainage.
Dethatch your lawn using a manual dethatcher, power rake, or vertical mower. All these tools are designed to dig into the thatch layer and pull it up. After dethatching, you’ll need to collect the debris from your lawn and either dispose of it or compost it.
After dethatching, you can aerate your lawn to improve soil drainage even more. Aeration is the process of punching holes a few inches into the soil to fix soil compaction. Compacted soil is soil without any air pockets. Water (and oxygen and plant nutrients) need those air pockets to move freely through the soil and drain properly.
If you have a small lawn, you can use a manual lawn aerator, which looks sort of like a pitchfork with sharp tines at the end that poke into the soil. You could also purchase lawn aerating spikes that attach to the bottom of your shoes, so all you have to do to aerate is walk across the lawn.
For larger lawns, you’ll have an easier time if you purchase or rent a larger core aeration machine.
Add soil amendments
Your soil may be naturally heavy and compacted, especially if it contains a lot of clay. Heavy clay soils retain water for a long time. If your soil is already full of water, it can’t absorb any more after rain. For better drainage, you may need to lighten up your heavy soil with certain soil amendments.
Some soil amendments that help improve drainage include:
- Expanded shale
- Finely shredded bark
- Composted wood chips
For some amendments, you can spread them on top of your lawn and work them into the soil with a rake. Other amendments need to be mixed with the soil several inches deep, so you have to dig down into the soil, work in the material, and then plant sod or grass seed on top.
Thin out trees
Water tends to hang around longer in shady areas, where there’s no direct sunlight to evaporate it. Prune your trees, cutting back and removing branches to thin out the shade coverage on your grass. Then, more sunshine can get through and evaporate more water.
Install a drainage system
If you take all these measures and your lawn still floods, consider installing a drainage system. A new drainage system will direct rainwater away from your lawn and into a storm drain, dry well, or somewhere else it won’t do any harm.
Yard drainage solutions include:
- French drain: A perforated pipe in a sloped trench covered in gravel that collects rainwater and carries it downhill to an appropriate collection point
- Rain garden: Deep-rooted plants in a low point of your lawn that absorb and filter rainwater; perfect if water tends to pool in one specific spot on your lawn
- Dry creek bed: A trench filled with stones that prevents water runoff and erosion
Installing a drainage system for your yard is an involved project that requires time, effort, and investment. It isn’t necessary for all yards, but if your area has constantly wet weather, a system like the ones listed above can keep your lawn from turning into a swamp.
Regrade the lawn
In some cases, the problem is the shape of the yard. The way your lawn is sloped might cause water to run downhill and pool in a certain area. You can alter the shape of your yard by regrading, which basically means moving large amounts of dirt to change the level and slope.
If you think you need to regrade your lawn, you’ll likely have to hire a professional with the equipment and knowledge necessary for such a large endeavor. This could be quite expensive, so it should be a last resort.
FAQ about wet lawn problems
The most common reasons for a waterlogged lawn are heavy soil, poor drainage, an unfortunate slope of the yard, or not enough sunlight. Find methods to fix all these issues detailed above.
If possible, never mow wet grass. Mowing the lawn while it’s wet can hurt your grass, your mower, and even you.
If you have to mow the lawn wet because the rain just won’t stop, follow these guidelines to cause the least damage possible:
—Don’t mow when there are pools of standing water. Wait until the grass has dried at least a little bit.
—Avoid heavy riding mowers and use a push mower instead.
—Sharpen the mower blades so they have a better chance of cutting the wet grass.
—Raise the mowing deck as high as possible to reduce clumps of wet grass clippings.
—Don’t try to mulch or bag grass clippings, as neither of these features work well with wet grass.
—Take breaks to clean the underside of the mower as you go to minimize the amount of debris that sticks to it.
Best watering practices for a healthy lawn
Rain isn’t the only culprit that can cause a waterlogged lawn. You might be overwatering, which can cause all the same issues as rain. In most cases, overwatering is actually worse than underwatering.
Learn the right way to water your lawn so it’s never too wet or too dry. For best results, your lawn should get about 1 inch of water per week, preferably in the morning (although you can’t control what time it rains).
Once your lawn is dry and healthy, Lawn Love’s local lawn care pros can keep it that way with lawn mowing, aeration, fertilizing, weed control, and other services.
Main Photo Credit: Nikolay Zakharov | Unsplash