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Mowing a wet lawn

It's not ideal, but sometimes you have to
Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

This is the rainy season in my neck of the woods. Getting out to mow before my lawn grows into a tall prairie sometimes requires cutting the grass when it’s wet, even though I know I shouldn’t.

Ward Upham is an extension horticulturist at Kansas State University. He says mowing wet grass isn’t a good idea for three reasons: Your mower has to work harder, grass is slippery and a safety concern especially if you’re on a slope, and thirdly – wet grass sticks to everything. You’ll have to periodically stop and clean out the underside of the mower deck. Maybe even your clothes.

Wet or dry, you shouldn’t cut more than one-third of the grass height. But if you can’t stand it and absolutely have to mow a wet yard, Upham says to raise the mower deck as high as it will go.

"And that way, even if the grass is tall, you may be still within that 1/3 of the grass blade level. Also, you’re taking off less of that grass blade so it’s going to be easier to mow," says Upham. "If it’s so wet that the grass is lying down, what you may have to do is go over it two different directions."

Upham says it’s always important to have sharp cutting blades, but even more so when the grass is wet because you tend to not get as good of a cut under those conditions.

"Really, you should be sharpening those blades about every 10-hours, and that’s because you get a better cut, and also takes less energy in order to cut the lawn," he says. "You know your blades are dull if you get kind of a whitish cast on that turf a day or two after you’ve finished mowing. What it’s doing is shredding the end of those blades."

If the grass is really, really long, side-discharge instead of mulching. Yes, you will leave ugly clumps. Let them dry, and then either rake them up or go back over them with the mower.

Find more tips for mowing when the grass is wet

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