Most of us know that the best way to achieve a “perfect cut” is to mow the lawn when it is dry. However, with incredibly unreliable weather here in the UK, there may be times, over the summer, when you have no other choice but to get the mower out on wet or damp grass.
The thing is that, unless you are using the correct type of lawn mower, something that is usually simple can turn into something of a gardening nightmare.
What Is The Best Type Of Lawn Mower For Cutting Wet Grass?
While I would always recommend erring on the side of caution when cutting wet or damp grass, if you absolutely have to do it, you should never use an electric mower.
You and I were both taught from a young age that water and electricity do not mix. If you attempt to mow your lawn with a corded or cordless lawn mower, it could end badly. One of the biggest risks is that the water will conduct the electricity and cause an electric shock. This applies to corded lawn mowers, but even those with batteries won’t mix well with water.
If water gets into any of the electrical systems within the tool, it could cause irreparable damage, leaving you mowerless and still no closer to a neat, trimmed lawn.
But it isn’t only the type of power that you should consider. If you try using a ride-on mower on wet grass, there are some serious potential dangers associated with how slippery the ground might be. For this reason, I’d always say use your push mower. While this might be a bit of a pain if you have a larger garden, it will, without doubt, be the safer option.
The only viable alternative is to use a petrol mower, as there is little or no risk of injury or damage to the mower itself. You will still of course need to consider any slippery slopes or hills on your lawn and always mow across the slope to reduce the risk of slipping.
That said, you should also consider that mowing the lawn when it is wet or damp will be a much more challenging job. It’s going to be harder to manoeuvre the mower over the surface and you won’t end up with a result that you are happy with. In fact, the amount of times that I have heard people say that they’ve mowed wet grass only to have to go over it again the next day when it has dried is amazing.
Should I Mow My Lawn When It Is Wet?
I’m probably not the first person to tell you that mowing the grass when it’s wet or damp isn’t the best idea. Even when you are using the correct type of mower, there can still be problems that arise.
If you have set aside a few hours on a Saturday morning to mow the grass only to find that it rained heavily the night before, I’d suggest letting it dry out, even if just a little bit. One of the best tips I was ever given is to take your garden hose and lay it down along the length of your lawn. Now you can use this as a sort of squeegee to remove any excess water. The grass will still be wet, but provided the weather is decent, it’ll now dry out much faster.
Reasons Not To Mow Your Lawn When It’s Wet
If you don’t want to cause damage to your lawn, then don’t mow it while there is any moisture present. Primarily, that heavy mower pressing down onto wet ground will do one thing; sink. It doesn’t take me to tell you that this is damaging to your lawn.
As the grass blades become soaked, they become heavier and will stick to the ground, often not in their typical upright position. This means that when you run a mower over the top, you’re likely not going to get as clean a cut as you would when the grass was dry and upright.
But this poses much more than just an aesthetic problem. Any cuts that are made will not be clean and sharp, but will be more of a rip which will leave your grass open to disease. Fungal diseases are among the most common to infect grass this way, but you may also notice that there are problems where airflow is concerned.
You see, when you mow a wet lawn, the grass has more of a tendency to clump together meaning that it will either clog your mower (another thing you don’t want) or it will get stuck on the ground and clog up the lawn.
Now, while I did tell you that a petrol mower is the best choice for mowing wet grass, that isn’t to say that it should be the choice. I can’t reiterate enough that waiting until the grass is dry will give you the best results. However, it is also worth considering that if water gets into certain parts of the petrol mower, this can also cause issues with starting, for example.
One of the most commonly seen issues will be a build-up of rust, and this applies to the deck and blades as well. But once your blades begin to rust and dull, your mower’s engine is going to have to work harder, which isn’t good for its longevity and performance.
How To Mow Wet Grass
So, if you still feel that wet mowing is the only solution, there are some things that you can do to make the process easier. But let me warn you, that aside from being more of a task, mowing wet grass will be far messier and will likely require a much more intense clean up.
The lawn surface can become very slippery when it is wet, so you will need to make sure that the mower you choose has a good amount of stability. One of the best things to look out for, in this instance, are larger rear wheels. This makes the mower weightier at the rear and gives you greater control, especially if you are working on sloped ground.
Moreover, larger rear wheels that are wider give you a better base for mowing that will be less likely to sink down into the ground and cause damage.
As I mentioned earlier, as your mower blades chop through wet grass, a tearing motion is made rather than the clean cut you get with dry grass. But if you need to mow when it’s wet, then ensuring that the blades are freshly sharpened will help them more effectively cut through that dense wet grass.
Additionally, when the blades are sharper, they will be more likely to pull up blades of wet grass that have bent down and are now flat to the ground. Although, that said, there are mowers out there that have blades that are shaped and designed to lift the grass as you mow.
Use A Higher Cutting Height
Most lawn mowers come with at least two or three cutting heights, some come with considerably more but whatever your mower’s capability, I would suggest setting it to the highest cutting height.
The reason for this is that when the mower deck is further from the ground, it will be much easier to pass over the lawn and keeps the blade rotating as fast as possible as it is cutting less grass. Having it on a lower setting will cause a lot of friction and make it harder to move the mower. Moreover, this additional friction will put a lot of unnecessary pressure on the engine which may result in it failing or the deck clogging. It will either be a costly job to repair or inconvenient and time-consuming to keep stopping and cleaning the underside of the deck. You may remember that I said earlier that you may find yourself having to go over the lawn more than once, this is the reason why.
Consider How You Will Dispose Of The Grass Clippings
If your lawnmower has a side or rear discharge chute, I would highly recommend using this in place of a mulching plug or grass collection bag. This is a much more efficient and simple way to dispose of the clippings when they are wet.
But you will still need to clean up afterwards by removing the clumps of wet grass from the lawn, otherwise you will be risking its health. This can be most easily done with a rake, but you will also need to make sure that you clean any remaining clippings from the mower’s deck to avoid mould and rust developing. Do this sooner rather than later, as when the grass dries the clumps will be much harder to remove. Since you will most probably be using a petrol lawn mower, many of these come with a hose wash port which makes cleaning so much quicker and easier.
If you don’t have this option and own a mower that only allows for grass bag collection, you must be prepared to empty the bag more often than you normally would. This will avoid it becoming too heavy or clogged with clumped clipping. Also bear in mind that the narrow chute between the underside of the deck and the grass collection bag will no doubt become clogged very quickly. This will become apparent when clumps of grass are left behind the mower and are not being picked up into the grass collection bag.
It is best to avoid using a ride on mower on wet ground as there is a significant risk of the wheels slipping and the mower tipping over. However, if you have no other choice then there are a few things you can do to make sure that you are as safe as possible.
- When you are mowing on a slope, be sure to never mow from side to side; always face up or down the slope and mow in this pattern.
- That said, if you can help it, try to only mow on flat areas until the grass is dry.
- While it may be a job you want to get done quickly, operating the mower at its slowest speed will be the safest option on wet ground.
How Long After Rain Should I Wait Before Cutting My Lawn?
There is no real reason that you cannot wait to cut your grass after it has rained and waiting will give you the best results. But you don’t need to wait as long as you might think. If the rain is not too heavy, you can allow a few hours to pass before it will be dry enough to successfully cut. However, if the heavens really did open up, then it might be wise to give it at least 24 hours before breaking out the mower.
With all of that in mind, every situation is different so you will need to judge things on the day. In the case that the ground is incredibly soggy and perhaps waterlogged, I would advise not mowing until everything has completely dried up, in serious cases, this could be a few days. Conversely, if you’re simply waiting for a little morning dew to clear, go and have a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich and you should be good to go!
What To Look For In A Mower For Wet Grass
I’ve said it multiple times in this post, and I’ll say it again; one of the most important things to look for in a lawn mower for wet grass is the power type – always petrol or manual push! But aside from that, there are a few key features that will make a mower much more suited to this type of work.
- A lightweight lawn mower will be much more suitable for wet grass since it will be easier to manoeuvre. Pushing a heavy mower over sodden ground is going to be extremely challenging and in some cases, may not be possible at all.
- Look for a lawn mower with a generous maximum cutting height. Even if it only has two or three settings, provided the highest is a good size, you will find mowing much easier.
- Mowers that work at faster speeds with sharp blades will be much more adept when working with wet or damp grass.
The weather waits for no-one, especially in Britain. While it can be beautifully sunny one minute, and you find yourself pulling the mower out of the shed, the next thing you know, the skies have darkened and it’s pouring with rain.
If you find yourself in this kind of situation, I would highly recommend putting that mower back into the shed and waiting for the grass to dry before attempting to cut it. That said, if there really is no other way and you must mow when the lawn is wet or damp, make sure you use a push petrol mower as this will give you the safest experience and best results possible in the given situation.