Wet Weather Lawn and Garden Maintenance

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Mowing too low can result in brown or yellow lawns that will recover slowly in cool temperatures and will leave excess grass clippings.

Mowing too low can result in brown or yellow lawns that will recover slowly in cool temperatures and will leave excess grass clippings.

Late September and early October have been extremely wet. How does this affect our lawns and gardens? One of the first things that came to my mind is mowing lawns. Although temperatures have been cooler and lawn growth has been slowed, our warm season grasses have still been growing. I have seen many lawns being mowed in the wet conditions or in the rain. This of course is not ideal but we sometimes do what we have to in order to get the job done. If your lawn has not been mowed since all the rain started and is very overgrown, I know the tendency will be to mow it as low as possible at once. Resist this temptation if you have not already done it. Besides creating a mess of clumped wet grass, it also stresses the entire lawn by removing a large amount of each grass plant. When going longer than normal between mowing it is best to follow the one-third rule. Instead of mowing low at once and going over the area again and again to remove excess grass clippings, or raking to remove grass clippings, do this. First wait until the lawn is completely dry. Mow the lawn to remove only one-third of the grass that is there. So if it is 6 inches tall, then mow it to 4 inches. Then come back in a day or two and remove another one-third of the growth. After mowing a few times you will get the lawn back to the height you prefer without causing a mess or stressing out the lawn. Following this procedure also avoids scalping the lawn. If you cut too much lawn growth off at once it what you may be left with is a yellowed or brown lower lawn canopy. This damage will be slow to recover due to cooler temperatures and slower lawn growth.

Another issue with mowing and saturated soils is compacting the soil and rutting lawn areas. To avoid this use a push mower, if possible, until the soil is dry enough to put heavier riding mowers on lawns without causing ruts. If ruts do occur then top dressing those areas with sand will help to level them out. Just make sure not to cover lawn areas completely with sand. Usually about one quarter to one half inch at one time is sufficient.

You might have seen or may see slime molds forming on lawns. Slime molds usually look like a thick dusty, powdery covering of the leaves. It may be gray, purple, white, yellow, or orange. They do not kill grasses but can cause yellowing in the areas they cover or shade. The best solution is to mow the areas or use a broom to remove the slime mold. There is no reason to spray anything for this. Although slime molds are not a problem, large patch is problem with all the rain and cloudy, cool days. You can refer to the web by searching the words “turffiles large patch” to find more information on management of that disease. I have written about it recently as well and you can find that article under news at https://pitt.ces.ncsu.edu. The article is titled “What is Large Patch Disease?”

Root diseases of arborvitae, azalea, boxwood, Leyland cypress, junipers, and other plants are always an issue when we have extended periods of wet weather or saturated soil. Dieback from these diseases may not be seen until next summer or whenever we have another drought due to plant root loss. All these types of plants won’t be affected but the ones in low or poorly drained soils could be. In the landscape the only way to prevent these problems is to use plants that are not susceptible to these diseases in wet areas and keep these plants in dryer areas. Plants that have dieback as a result will have to be removed. Some good alternatives for wet areas are native deciduous azaleas, waxmyrtle, spicebush, sweetspire, anise-tree, silky dogwood, fothergilla, swamp cyrilla, inberry, winterberry, and yaupon holly.

As we dry out expect to see more activity from fire ants. Now that it is not so hot and they have soil moisture it is more desirable for them to build mounds. Use baits or individual mound treatments according to label instructions to manage them. If you have lawn and garden questions give the Master Gardener Volunteers a call at 252-902-1705 or email pittcomgv@hotmail.com. Visit http://pitt.ces.ncsu.edu for more gardening information.