Is it OK to mow dry grass?

Mowing dry grass is often discouraged by lawn care experts for a few key reasons. In the opening section of this article, we’ll provide quick answers to some common questions surrounding mowing dry grass:

Quick Answers

Is it OK to mow dry grass? In most cases, it’s best to avoid mowing dry grass. Mowing dry grass can damage your lawn in a few ways:

  • It can cause browning and drying out of grass blades
  • It can lead to a buildup of thin grass clippings that don’t decompose properly
  • It can create an uneven lawn appearance from scalping and breaking of dried grass blades

When is it OK to mow dry grass? There are a couple exceptions where mowing dry grass may be acceptable:

  • If you let the grass get overly tall and dry before mowing, it may be necessary to mow dry and then keep it watered after
  • During drought or water restrictions, allowing the grass to go dormant and mowing dry may be the only option

How can you avoid mowing dry grass? The best way to avoid mowing dry grass is to mow more frequently when the grass is green and hydrated. Watering your lawn 1-2 days before mowing is also recommended.

Why Mowing Dry Grass Can Damage Your Lawn

Now that we’ve covered some quick tips, let’s dive deeper into why mowing dry grass is problematic for your lawn’s health.

There are a few key reasons experts caution against mowing dry grass:

Browning and Drying Out of Grass Blades

Mowing dry grass puts extra stress on the already dehydrated grass blades. The friction from the mower blades causes browning and ripping of the dried blades. This damage can lead to permanent drying and thinning of your lawn over time.

Buildup of Dry Grass Clippings

When grass is mowed dry, the clippings are often very thin and dry. These clippings can easily build up on the surface of your lawn instead of decomposing back into the soil. The clippings block sunlight from reaching the grass blades below and provide a breeding ground for lawn diseases.

Uneven Lawn Appearance

The tearing and ripping action caused by mowing dry grass frequently results in an uneven, patchy appearance. Dried blades are easily “scalped” at uneven heights, while some overly dried patches may be matted down completely.

When Can Mowing Dry Grass Be Acceptable?

Mowing dry grass is not recommended in most circumstances. However, there are a couple exceptions where it may be unavoidable:

Letting Grass Get Overly Long and Dry

Sometimes lawn mowing gets delayed and the grass grows too tall before its next cut. At a certain point, the grass starts to dry out and turn yellow or brown. In these cases, it’s usually best to just mow over the dried grass. Allowing excessive grass growth can cause other issues like disease, insects, and matting.

After mowing, be sure to water the lawn well to avoid continued drying. And resume a regular mowing schedule to prevent it from happening again.

Mowing During Drought or Water Restrictions

In areas experiencing drought or stringent lawn watering restrictions, allowing grass to go dormant and turn brown is often unavoidable. The grass enters survival mode by browning and going dormant to conserve moisture.

Continuing to mow during these conditions can be acceptable to keep the lawn tidy. But set the mower deck high to minimize harm to the dormant, dry blades. The grass will green back up once normal watering resumes.

How to Prevent Mowing Dry Grass

When possible, it’s always best to mow grass while it’s still green and growing. Here are some tips to avoid needing to mow dry grass:

Mow More Frequently

Mowing your lawn more often when the grass is healthiest prevents excess drying and dieback between cuts. For cool season grasses, mow every 4-7 days during active growth. For warm season grasses, mow every 7-10 days during green periods.

Time Mowing After Watering or Rain

Try to mow 1-2 days after watering or heavy rain. This allows the soil and grass plants to absorb moisture before the mowing shock. The grass blades remain hydrated and are less likely to tear and rip when cut.

Avoid Mowing in Peak Heat

Minimize mowing when temperatures are over 85°F. Hot and dry conditions cause grass plants to lose moisture very rapidly. Wait for cooler temperatures or the evening to mow during hot, dry periods.

Adjust Your Mowing Height

For added drought resistance, raise your mower cutting height during hot, dry spells. Taller grass shades the soil and retains more moisture in the plants and soil. A height of 3-4 inches is ideal.

Best Practices for Mowing Dry Grass

If you must mow dry, dried-out grass, follow these best practices to minimize harm:

  • Raise mower cutting height – Use the highest setting to minimize blade contact.
  • Use sharp mower blades – Sharper blades make cleaner cuts vs. ripping and tearing.
  • Avoid aggressive turns – Gentle maneuvers prevent scalping and scuffing.
  • Bag clippings – Removing clippings prevents smothering and disease issues.
  • Water immediately after – Hydrate the lawn to prevent further drying out.
  • Fertilize 2 weeks after – This supports regrowth once moisture returns.

Alternatives to Mowing Dry Grass

If mowing simply isn’t possible when grass dries out, consider these alternatives:

Let It Go Dormant

During heat waves or drought, just let the grass naturally go brown and dormant. Refrain from mowing and allow dormancy to conserve moisture.

Use a String Trimmer

A string trimmer is less damaging to dried grass. Use it to lightly trim the tips of overly long dried grass as needed.

Install Artificial Turf

For chronically dry lawns, artificial turf eliminates mowing needs altogether. It maintains green color and a groomed appearance no matter the weather.

FAQs About Mowing Dry Grass

Should I mow my lawn when it’s dormant?

You can still mow dormant, brown grass to maintain a tidy appearance. But raise the mower height to avoid damaging the drying blades. Grass will resume growth once temperatures and moisture improve.

How soon after watering should I mow?

It’s best to mow 1-2 days after watering or significant rainfall. This allows moisture to penetrate into the soil and rehydrate the grass plants before exposing them to mowing shock.

Can mowing dry grass kill it?

Mowing extremely dry, dormant grass won’t necessarily kill the lawn. But it can damage the grass blades, leading to thinning and dieback over time. Lightly trimming dried tips is preferable to mowing brown grass low.

Should I bag clippings when mowing dry grass?

It’s advisable to collect clippings when mowing dry grass. Dry clippings accumulate on the lawn surface and can smother grass rather than decomposing. Bagging prevents buildup issues.

Is it better to mow higher or lower when grass is dry?

Mowing at the highest setting is best for dry grass. This minimizes direct contact between the blades and dried grass. A height of 3-4 inches is ideal during drought or dormancy.

Key Takeaways

Here are some key summary points on mowing dry grass:

  • Avoid mowing dry grass whenever possible, as it causes blade damage and an uneven appearance.
  • Only mow dry if the grass gets too tall between cuts or goes dormant during drought.
  • Mow green, hydrated grass every 4-10 days to prevent excess drying.
  • Raise mower height and bag clippings when mowing dry grass to minimize harm.
  • Letting grass go dormant and using string trimmers are lower impact alternatives.


Mowing dry, parched grass is not ideal for the health and appearance of your lawn. The best practice is to mow regularly while the grass is fully hydrated and growing. But if allowing grass to dry out before cutting is unavoidable, be sure to mow carefully at higher heights and water immediately after to avoid permanent damage. With proper care and maintenance, your lawn can recover from occasional mowing when dry.

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