Ruts in your lawn will happen for several reasons.
Lawnmowers commonly cause most shallow ruts.
Deep ruts are usually caused by heavy vehicles or construction equipment.
Many homeowners wonder if it’s possible to fix these ruts and restore their lawn.
Shallow and deep ruts in your lawn are easily fixed in just a few simple steps. For shallow ruts, use a shovel at a 45° degree angle to remove the ruts and replace the grass. For deep ruts, do the same thing but edge around the rutted area before digging out the ruts.
Keep reading to learn more about how to fix ruts in your lawn, including why fixing ruts is important, the steps necessary to restore your yard and the best time of year to do the repairs.
Why Is Fixing Ruts In Your Lawn Important?
Aside from the unsightly appearance they give to your lawn, it is crucial to fix ruts in your lawn as soon as possible to avoid other problems.
When there are ruts in your yard, you will have to deal with water pooling in them every time it rains.
The soil at the base of the rut will be compacted, and water will not drain correctly.
The excess water will also cause your lawn to have muddy spots.
All of the standing water in your lawn creates a breeding ground for pests like mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are extremely bothersome, especially during the hot summer months.
These biting pests will not only cause your skin to be very itchy where they bite you, but they can transmit diseases like malaria and the Zika virus.
To prevent mosquitoes from taking over your lawn during the summer, eliminate any standing water on your property so these pests do not have a suitable place to lay their eggs.
Another problem with ruts in your lawn is dying grass.
If there was any grass in the area where the rut is made, it would likely die from heavy equipment and compacted soil trauma.
When the rut is left as it is, grass will have a very difficult time growing back without some intervention from you.
With special care, it is possible to fix the ruts and get grass to grow there again without any noticeable long-term damage to your lawn.
How To Fix Shallow Ruts In Your Lawn
Shallow ruts in your lawn are usually less than 4″ inches deep, and they are very easily fixed.
The first thing you will do is use a small shovel or spade fork to loosen up the compacted soil.
You do not have to go very deep into the ground since it is a shallow rut.
Dig into the rut at a 45° degree angle to keep from digging too deep into the ground.
Continue to loosen the soil with your fork until the loose soil level is 1-2″ inches higher than the area surrounding it.
When the dirt settles, it will be at the same height as the rest of your lawn.
If there is still grass on the rutted area, you will not have to do anything further.
However, if the rut has caused all of the grass to die out, you will need to plant new grass seed or place sod over the bare spot.
Be sure to choose the same type of grass as the rest of the lawn so the repair will be unnoticeable.
How To Fix Deep Ruts In Your Lawn
Deeper ruts are a bit more challenging to fix because they are usually deeper than 4″ inches.
Once again, you will use a spade fork to dig into the rut at a 45° degree angle to loosen the soil.
Be sure to go deep enough to loosen up all of the compacted soil in the rut.
If there is any grass left on the rut, carefully remove it and set it aside later.
Use an edger or landscaping knife to cut around the edges of the grass.
Be sure to cut all of the ways through any thatch and down to the soil.
Once you have cut around the grass in the rut, pry up the edge with your fork and gently roll the grass over for access to the rut.
With the grass out of the way, use your fork to loosen the soil even more so the new grass will root properly and have healthy root growth.
Use a 50/50 mixture of topsoil and sand to fill in the rut.
Sand is mixed in to provide excellent drainage and prevent the soil from becoming too compacted.
When you have filled in the rut without leaving any gaps at the edges, it is time to roll the grass back over the rut.
Press the grass down firmly to ensure the grass roots make good contact with the soil.
It is best if the grass is sitting just a little higher than the area around it.
This patch will be level with the grass around it once the dirt has settled.
Since the grass has likely been damaged by whatever caused the rut, it is a good idea to spread additional grass seed over the area.
Choose the same type of grass as the rest of your lawn and use a rake to ensure the seeds are spread out evenly across the patch.
Water this area regularly to promote healthy growth in the new grass.
If the area of the rut repair sinks too far below the area around it, carefully pry up the grass and add more of the soil and sand mixture underneath.
The Best Time To Fix Ruts In Your Lawn
For the best results after fixing a rut in your lawn, it is best to do the repairs during the right time of the year.
The type of grass you have on your lawn will determine the best time to fix the ruts.
The best time to fix ruts is during the growing season when your grass is at its peak growing stage for the year.
For warm-season grasses, it is best to fix the ruts is during late spring, right before the heat of the summer months.
Since warm-season grasses grow more at the beginning of summer, this ensures the new grass will grow enough to quickly catch up with the length of the grass around it.
Water this repair spot frequently because the heat of the summer sun will quickly dry the ground out.
For cool-season grasses, the best time to repair large ruts in your lawn is in the fall.
If you are repairing a deep rut in the fall, it is best to do it well before the first frost arrives.
This gives the new grass a chance to sprout and have healthy growth before it goes dormant for the winter.
If the ruts are shallow, repair them in the middle to late spring.
In Northern areas, where you likely have cool-season grass, ruts and holes left from ice and snow melting will be more noticeable as well.
How To Prevent Ruts In Your Lawn
While it is usually not difficult to repair any ruts in your lawn, it is best to prevent them from happening in the first place.
There are several factors for construction crews and homeowners to consider to prevent creating ruts on the lawn.
If you are doing construction in and around your home, there are a couple of things to consider.
If the job you are doing requires a roll-off dumpster, do not place it on your lawn.
Not only will the heavy dumpster leave deep ruts in your lawn, but the equipment used to tow the dumpster will cause some damage as well.
Make a space in your driveway to keep the roll-off dumpster, or keep it at the curb in front of your home.
Another way to reduce ruts in your lawn when doing construction is by using lightweight equipment.
Large trucks and traditional construction equipment have large tracks and tires, and they will leave very deep ruts and tire tracks in your lawn, especially in wet soil.
For most homeowners, the most common cause of ruts in their lawn is poor lawn mowing techniques.
There are several tips for mowing your lawn without causing unnecessary ruts.
Do Not Mow Wet Grass
Never mow your lawn when the grass is wet.
The ground will be softened from moisture, and any equipment you use on it will cause ruts in your lawn.
Always wait for a day or two after it rains before mowing your lawn.
This waiting period allows the grass to dry out and allows the ground to firm back up.
Mow In Different Directions
Another tip to prevent ruts from forming in your lawn is to choose a different mowing pattern each time you mow your lawn.
This means if you mow your lawn in North to South lines, you will mow from East to West the next time.
You may even mow in diagonal lines on your lawn to go a step farther.
Not only does mowing in different directions helps to prevent ruts, but it encourages healthy grass growth by keeping the grass from growing in a sideways direction.
Change the Tires on Your Lawnmower
If you have changed your mowing habits and are still experiencing ruts in your lawn, the problem may be the kind of tires on your lawnmower.
If you have steep hills in your yard, you will need lawnmower tires with deeper tread for extra grip.
However, if your lawn is mostly flat, these aggressive tires are more likely to cause deep ruts in your lawn.
When you are purchasing a new lawnmower, keep the weight and type of tire tread in mind.
Choose the best combination for your lawn to avoid having to fix ruts in your yard later.
It is also possible to change the tires on your current mower.
Be sure to pick the correct size of tires for your lawnmower.
If your lawnmower tires are slick, they will also cause ruts in your lawn by spinning out when you accelerate the mower.
When the tires on your mower seem to be losing their grip, it is time to get some new ones.
Changing the tires on your mower before they become too slick will help prevent tire ruts from forming in your lawn.
Commonly Asked Questions
How do you fix ruts in the winter?
When ruts happen on your lawn in the winter, it is better to wait until early spring to repair them when your grass is dormant.
In the meantime, spread straw over the rut to prevent standing water from collecting during the winter season.
Will trampled grass grow back?
If your grass gets trampled, it may take up to a month to completely grow back.
You will have to add grass seed to the area to ensure full growth and compensate for dead grass.
After spreading the seed, be sure to water the area daily until you see grass sprouts.
Once the grass emerges from the ground, you will water it on the same schedule as the rest of your lawn.
Adding a fertilizer where you plant the seeds will encourage the grass to grow faster.
Wait until the new grass is at least 3-4″ inches tall before mowing it for the first time.
Why does my zero-turn mower leave ruts?
The reason your zero-turn mower is leaving ruts in your lawn is that one of the wheels is locked in place.
One of the wheels is locking up because you are turning the mower at high speed.
Slow the mower down before you make a turn, and push one handle forward and the other handle back simultaneously.
This will allow the mower to make a zero-radius turn without causing a rut in your lawn.
Another way to avoid ruts when using your zero-turn mower is to make a 3-point turn instead.
Making a 3-point turn only takes a couple of seconds longer, and it reduces the chance of creating ruts in your lawn.
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