Soggy sod: Help your turf recover from too much rain.

Minor lawn flooding can help you fix future problems

When the water is rising, and your neighbors are using boats instead of cars to fetch supplies, your lawn is probably the last thing on your mind. But eventually, you’ll want to deal with the soggy, muddy mess left by the flooding. All that water can stress your lawn, potentially leading to fungal diseases as well as a lot more weeds.

Spring flood

A flooded lawn provides the opportunity to identify low lying areas of your yard and address them. You can also raise plant beds and install needed drainage areas.

Here are some smart actions to take when your lawn is getting a soaking and after the rains stop, plus ideas for minimizing floodwater damage in the future.

As the downpour begins …

  • Turn off your sprinkler system. Okay, this may sound obvious but when people are in crisis mode, they often forget to flip the switch to the “off” position. Form a habit of turning off your system whenever the forecast calls for a steady rainfall. Consider installing an electronic rain sensor so this happens automatically.
  • Take photos. Even if your property is entirely covered by water, you may still have areas with deep puddles that will need to be addressed once dry weather reappears. Photos will help you remember and communicate their exact location.

When the sun re-appears …

  • Stay off the lawn for a while. Give the soil time to dry out and firm up before walking on the lawn or using a mower. Otherwise, you’ll create difficult-to-fix ruts and probably ruin your shoes.
  • Clear away any debris. Removing leaves, twigs and anything else that floated onto your yard will help your lawn dry out, and help prevent fungus and other lawn diseases from starting.
  • If the grass is a little yellow, add some fertilizer. The flood waters probably removed nutrients from your soil. Time to give it a little boost to help your lawn regain its vitality. Check with your county extension agent for the right mix and be sure to use the minimal amount required.

Prepare for the future …

  • lawn tips for flooding

    Raising plant beds help to keep roots from becoming oversaturated and allows for better drainage.

    Raise your beds. Planting shrubs and trees in mounds that are a foot or more above ground will help them withstand over-saturated soil.

  • Aerate your soil if it is densely compacted. Flooding suffocates your lawn. Aerating (using a machine to poke holes throughout your lawn) will help move some of the water further into the soil and encourage deeper root growth.
  • Address any major drainage issues. Print those pictures you took to show a landscape architect exactly where the water tends to pool in your yard. The architect can recommend subtle changes to your lawn’s
    Pitch fork for aeration

    Aerating the lawn by putting holes every few feet (by machine or by pitch fork) allows excess water to drain and encourages roots to grow deeper for the water source.

    slope and elevation that may cause it to retain less water the next time you get a heavy rain.

  • Install a French drain. A French drain, reportedly made popular by a Massachusetts judge and farmer named Henry French, is a slightly sloped trench that’s filled with gravel. Most people also use a perforated black plastic pipe within their French drain to re-direct the water away from the location.
  • Keep your lawn at its ideal height. If your lawn needs mowing, and there’s heavy rain in the forecast, try to get it cut while the sun is still shining. Shorter grass won’t trap as much water, plus it will dry faster afterward.

If you live in a flood-prone area, choose the turf variety best suited for your climate and keep it healthy. Sod that is in good condition before the flood will have an easier time recovering after the water recedes.

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