A wet and muddy yard not only lowers your home’s curb appeal but too much standing water may also be killing your grass and causing damage to your other plants.
To efficiently dry up your muddy lawn, you will first need to determine the cause of the excess water.
The three most common causes of too much water in the yard are leaky drainage systems, sewage lines, and water lines.
No matter the cause of excess water in your yard, it is imperative to dry it as quickly as possible.
Standing water needs to be remedied before it causes any damage to your grass, plants, or home.
Keep reading for the top 10 most efficient ways to dry out your wet and muddy lawn.
Table of Contents
Add Sand To The Soil
One of the fastest ways to dry out wet soil is to add some sand to it.
The sand will allow the water to drain quickly, and it will help keep it dry.
If the soil you live in contains a high amount of clay, adding sand will help it dry much faster.
Spread the sand in a zigzag pattern across the wet areas on your lawn.
Use a broadcast spreader, like the one you use to spread fertilizer, for even application.
Here’s the broadcast spreader we like on Amazon.
Stop when the sand starts to build up between the blades of grass.
Let the sand settle for one week, and add more sand if the area is still wet.
Keep repeating this process until the wet area of your yard is dry.
Level The Ground
A simple way to help your lawn dry out efficiently is to level the ground.
Eliminate any low-lying areas in your yard where water will easily collect.
Fill the shallow dips in your yard with soil to make them level with the rest of the yard.
Another solution is to regrade areas of your lawn to help water flow away from it more easily.
If your entire yard is constantly collecting too much water, consider regrading the lawn on a slope to improve drainage.
A slight slope of 1/4″ inch per foot of lawn, or 2%, is quite effective at draining water from your yard.
Be sure the slope is going in the direction away from your home to prevent damage to the foundation.
Move soil from low-lying areas and place it on the higher parts of the lawn to quickly create a slope.
Aerate The Soil
If the soil in your yard becomes too compacted from foot traffic, it will not absorb water properly.
Any water your lawn receives will pool on top of the soil instead of being absorbed into it.
Lawns with high clay content in the soil are more prone to becoming compacted.
Use an aeration tool to poke holes in the surface of your lawn so water can penetrate the soil.
The holes need to be 4″ inches deep and 2″ inches apart.
If you have a small yard, a simple manual aerator will do the job.
It is easier and more efficient for large yards to use the aerator you tow behind a lawn tractor.
Aerating the soil not only increases water drainage, but it loosens the soil for better root growth.
Your grass will be much more robust and healthier if you aerate your soil at least once or twice a year.
For more details, check out our guide on how to aerate your yard by hand.
Dethatch Your Lawn
Thatch forms when dead grass forms a low layer on the ground by becoming matted together.
Once the thatch reaches ½” inch of thickness, it blocks the soil from receiving any water or nutrients.
The water will pool on the thatch and cause your yard to stay wet.
If your topsoil has a spongy feel or you notice wet patches, your lawn is likely overgrown with excess thatch.
The best way to avoid a constantly swampy lawn is to remove the thatch completely.
Use a rake or dethatching mower to break the thatch up and remove it all.
Mowing wet grass increases the chances of thatch developing because the grass clippings will become matted together.
Regularly remove thatch from your yard to maintain healthy grass.
Be careful not to damage any grass roots when you are removing thatch from your lawn.
A huge part of avoiding thatch is knowing how long it takes grass clipping to decompose.
Install A French Drain
A French drain, also known as a curtain drain, is a graded channel with a perforated pipe along the bottom.
The drain is usually filled with rocks or other course materials, which helps control water flow.
The French drain is sloped in such a way so that gravity can move the water away from your lawn.
French drains usually measure between 18-20″ inches deep and 6″ inches wide.
A 4″-inch perforated pipe runs along the bottom to keep the water draining steadily into the soil.
The drain is filled with around 12″ inches of gravel to help slow the water down as it flows through the pipe.
If you prefer the French drain to be hidden from view, place soil over the drain and plant grass seed.
The curtain drain will still work if it is entirely underground.
Replant Your Yard With Water-Tolerant Plants
If only a small section of your yard is wet and muddy, it is easy to improve the area by planting lots of water-tolerant plants.
These plants will help to soak up excess water, and they are appealing to the eye.
Some examples of water-tolerant plants include:
- Elephant ears
The roots and organic matter from these types of plants also loosen the soil and improve drainage.
If the soil is already very muddy, the plants likely will not need any extra water.
Allow the plants to soak up the excess moisture where you have planted them before adding any water to the area.
Fertilize your plants according to which species you have planted.
Depending on how wet your lawn stays, you may not need to water the plants very often.
Add Lawn Gravel
Adding lawn gravel to your yard is a simple way to improve drainage, prevent muddy areas, and fill in a low spot in your yard.
Use the lawn gravel to create a path connecting one part of your yard to another.
Gravel will also create better drainage when placed around soggy areas underneath trees.
Lawn gravel also works very well to create a play area for your children.
It is very easy to install gravel on your lawn, and it provides you with a permanent fix for wet areas.
The lawn gravel needs to be strategically placed on your lawn to avoid creating any wet areas.
The depth of the gravel only needs to be above the groundwater.
A professional gardener or landscaper will be able to assess your lawn and create an optimal plan for placing your lawn gravel.
Hire someone to place the gravel on your lawn, or do it yourself.
Once you know where you are putting the gravel, it is effortless to install.
Pour the gravel into large mounds and use a shovel to place the gravel in the desired areas.
Add Lime To The Soil
Adding lime to your wet soil is one of the easiest and fastest ways to dry a muddy lawn.
When lime comes into contact with any moisture, a chemical reaction begins to take place.
The individual lime particles begin to expand, and they will also produce steam and heat.
If there is not enough moisture on the ground where you spread the lime, you will have to spray some water over the lime to start the chemical reaction.
There are several types of agricultural lime available on the market, including hydrated lime and quick lime.
They all work similarly, so it is a matter of personal choice.
Remove debris from your yards, such as sticks, wet leaves, and old mulches or dead flowers.
Lime is very efficient, and it will dry out everything it touches.
If you are working with concentrated lime, it is best to wear protective gloves, clothing, and goggles.
Lime is a very alkaline substance, and if it comes into contact with your skin, it will cause burns.
Add Cat Litter To The Soil
If you cannot get some lime and the wet area of your lawn is relatively tiny, cat litter may be used as a substitute to dry the soil.
Cat litter is not a good solution for your entire lawn because it is costly compared to lime or other methods.
Be sure to choose a clumping litter for the best results.
The amount of cat litter you will need to use depends on how wet your lawn is.
Leave the litter on the wet area of your lawn for up to 24 hours.
This allows the litter to absorb the water and form clumps.
You will need to remove the clumps and check if the area is dry.
Use a shovel to scoop the clumps from the area and dispose of them properly.
If the area is very wet or muddy, you will have to keep adding and removing the cat litter until the area is dry.
After the cat litter has been removed, it is safe to plant grass or place sod over the area.
Always wear a protective mask when working with cat litter.
Clay litters tend to be very dusty, and they may irritate the lungs.
Lay Straw On The Soil
Straw is the cheapest method of drying out a wet and muddy lawn.
Bales of hay and straw are readily available at any farmer’s co-op or feed store.
You will need to purchase enough straw to cover the wet or muddy area without any gaps completely.
The more the straw dries out, the more water it will absorb from your soil.
The only drawback to using a straw is staying in place during heavy storms or gusty winds.
Straw is very lightweight, so you may see it blowing around your yard on a windy day.
Straw may also begin to mold if it gets too wet for a prolonged period.
Check the straw periodically, and use a rake to turn the straw if it is too moist.
The wet straw will not be able to absorb as much water as the dry straw.
Moving the wet straw to the top of the pile will give it a chance to dry out and become absorbent again.
Stop The Excess Water First
All of these ideas are great, but the first thing to do is stop the excess water.
These three issues most often cause it.
Check your drainage pipes for leaks, as poor drainage is often why there is too much water in your yard.
A leaky gutter will spew water where it is not wanted instead of running down the pipe and drainage spout.
Place a drain rock at the end of your gutter spout.
The drain rock will help disperse the water coming from the drain and keep it from creating a muddy hole in your yard.
For another option, check out our post on pop-up lawn drains and emitters.
Another common source of excess water in your yard is the sewage line.
With a sewage line leak, you will notice a gradual increase of standing water on your lawn rather than a lot of water all at once.
A sewer leak will not only damage your grass and plants but poses a health hazard as well.
Call a professional plumber right away to have your sewer line fixed as soon as possible.
Leaky water lines will also cause you to have a soggy yard.
Check all of your faucets, sprinkler systems, garden hoses, fountains, pools, and other water sources for leaks.
If your water bill is higher than usual, you may have a leak in your water line.
Once again, you will need to call a professional plumber to fix the problem as soon as possible.
Commonly Asked Questions
How long does it take for the ground to dry out?
Different types of soil will dry at varying rates.
For example, a soil mixture containing sand will dry out 5-7 days sooner than clay soil.
A sunny day after a short burst of rain will dry the soil out within a few hours.
If there were recently thunderstorms that lasted an entire day or two, the soil would likely take several days to dry out.
When there is not much sunlight, the soil will take even longer to dry out.
Wind also plays a role in drying the soil.
A very windy day could cut your soil’s drying time by as much as 50%.
Always allow wet grass to dry for a day or two before you mow the lawn.
Cutting wet grass will damage your lawnmower blades and may clog up the entire machine.
Wet grass clippings also have a higher chance of becoming matted together and forming areas of thatch on your lawn.
As previously stated, thatch will need to be removed regularly, so the ground can receive water and absorb essential nutrients from fertilizers.
It is never a good idea to let your soil dry out completely.
If the ground became dry, your grass and other plant life would likely start to die.
Air humidity also affects how long it takes for the ground to dry out.
The higher the humidity levels are, the longer it will take for the soil to dry because it will be pulling in moisture from the air.
The soil in arid climates will dry very quickly because there is so little moisture in the air.
When combined with high temperatures, the dry air will begin to pull moisture from the soil.
Do dry wells work?
Dry wells are safe for collecting and redistributing stormwater into the soil as long as the water is not contaminated.
A dry well works best when surrounded by gravel to allow the water to flow into the soil more quickly.
Dry wells are sometimes paired with a french drain.
Unfortunately, dry wells are costly to install, and they are very inefficient because they quickly become clogged.
You will also need to accommodate large holding tanks in your yard if you want to provide a place for excess water to go when the dry well cannot disperse it quickly enough.
If the dry well becomes clogged in any way, it will lead to flooding near it.
In addition to being expensive to install, a dry well may also be costly to maintain if you need to hire a professional to unclog it for you.
If you notice a foul smell coming from your dry well, it may be contaminated from a nearby leaky sewage pipe.
If sewage leaks into your dry well, you will need to hire a professional to repair your sewer line and decontaminate the dry well.
Raw sewage creates a biohazard, and it is challenging to completely remove all of the residues once it leaks into a dry well.
In general, installing a dry well is not recommended due to the expenses and the maintenance issues.
There are much more effective and less expensive ways of removing excess water from your lawn to consider a dry well.
If you bought a home with a dry well already installed on the property, be sure to stay up to date on the well’s maintenance to keep it running smoothly.
How do I test my soil for drainage?
Testing your soil’s drainage, also known as percolation testing, allows you to measure the absorption rate of the soil.
You will first dig a hole around 12″ inches deep and 8-12″ inches wide to do the test.
Then, you will fill the hole with water and allow it to drain.
Refill the hole with water 12 hours later, and time how long it takes for the water to drain completely.
Measure the water every hour until the hole is empty, and note how many inches of water are lost each time.
Soil with good drainage can drain the water will drop by 1″ inch every hour.
If the water drains in less than 2 hours or more than 24 hours, this is a sign your soil has drainage problems.
Drainage issues may be caused by compacted soil, a high percentage of clay, or a layer of minerals blocking water flow.
To keep your soil draining correctly, be sure to aerate your lawn at least twice per year.
Plant a grass type with long roots, such as Bermuda grass, to open the soil below and provide small drainage channels.
Why is my lawn soft and squishy?
If your lawn has a soft and squishy feel, this usually means you have an overgrowth of thatch.
Thatch is formed from an excess of dead grass pieces.
A thick layer of thatch will prevent your grass from getting any water or nutrients in the soil.
As a result, your grass will suffer.
If the thatch is not regularly removed from your lawn, your grass will very likely die from a lack of nutrition and water.
Thatch is most common in lawns with acidic or compacted soil.
Improper mowing, too much nitrogen, and pest problems all contribute to the squishy feeling of thatch.
If you want to avoid thatch on your lawn as much as possible, plant a grass type that does not produce a lot of thatch.
Some excellent options include tall fescue grass, zoysia grass, and perennial ryegrass.
The best time to dethatch your lawn is during late summer or early fall.
During this time, grass growth will be slowing down for the rest of the season, and thatch will be much easier to remove and maintain because you will not be mowing your lawn very frequently.
Check out our post on how to fix soft, squishy, and spongy lawns for additional information.