After a month or two of owning a riding lawn mower, I started to notice that the wheels of my mower were flattening the grass and stopping the blades from making a good clean cut. To be honest, the problem made me question if I was doing something wrong or if there was a problem with the lawn mower.
It turns out that mowing a lawn with a riding lawn mower is actually pretty different from using a push mower. There are techniques to learn and things to keep an eye on. Here’s what I discovered was causing the lawn mower wheels to flatten the grass.
How Can You Stop Your Lawn Mower Tires Flattening the Grass? (The Short Answer)
Riding lawn mowers are much larger and heavier than smaller walk-behind lawn mowers, and therefore the grass can be flattened much more easily. To overcome flattened grass, you will need to address the following items:
- Crosscut Your Lawn
- Turn & Drive Slowly
- Keep Off Wet Grass
- Select the Best Blade Type
- Keep Your Tires Correctly Inflated
Why It’s a Problem if Your Tires Flatten the Grass
If the grass under your lawn mower tires gets flattened out continuously, your grass will eventually die. Grass suffers greatly when it is heavily compacted and put under an immense amount of stress over and over. There is only so much shock a lawn can take before it finally gives in. Thankfully, there are plenty of steps you can take to stop this from happening in the first place.
Why Your Mower’s Tires Are Flattening the Grass (5 Explanations)
Before we look at the solutions for why your lawn mower wheels flatten the grass, let’s take a look at the causes. This will help give you an idea of what you should avoid.
Always Mowing in the Same Tracks
One of the most common habits I see riding lawn mower owners take on is always mowing in the exact same track week in and week out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the weight of your lawn mower to start to compress and flatten out these tracks.
Driving and Turning Too Quickly
The one thing you probably noticed straight away when you started mowing your lawn with a riding lawn mower is that it mows much faster than your old walk-behind. Now, this is great for saving time, but it can be a reason why your lawn mower wheels flatten your grass. I definitely noticed when I was turning in my lawn mower that the extra weight pressing into the lawn would really flatten the grass.
Mowing Wet Grass
Mowing wet grass isn’t a very good idea in general, but usually, with a push lawn mower, you get the job done even if your lawn mower does clog more often than not. But when you are mowing with a riding lawn mower, you’ll quickly notice that you start to leave wheel ruts behind. This is because the weight of the mower squashes both the soil and the grass at the same time and leaves a path behind you of flattened grass and tire tracks.
Not Having the Best Type of Blade
One of the jobs a lawn mower blade can do is lift the grass to various degrees depending on the blade that you choose to use. For example, a low-lift blade will lift the grass very little, whereas a high-lift blade will stand the grass straight up. So, depending on what blades you have attached to your cutting deck, the suction created will vary.
Not Keeping the Correct Tire Pressure
Last on my list is the pressure you have your lawn mower tires inflated to. Tires that are inflated too low can cause issues like an uneven cut, poor handling, and an increased ground contact point, whereas an over-inflated tire can make the tire too hard and too aggressive on the lawn. Either way, incorrectly inflated tires can flatten your grass, especially when added to other contributing factors.
What I Recommend You Try to Fix This Problem (5 Things to Try)
Now that we have looked at the potential reasons why your lawn mower wheels flatten your grass, let’s go over my five recommendations that could help you fix the problem.
Crosscut Your Lawn
So what is crosscutting? Well, it’s a method of mowing your lawn without mowing on the same track you previously mowed. For example, one week, you might mow up and down your lawn, then the next week, you could mow from side to side. Or you could mow diagonally. Basically, whatever it takes not to mow in the same tracks as before.
The benefit of crosscutting is that your lawn gets more time to recover. For example, if you use two mowing patterns and alternate between them, the grass gets twice as long to recover compared to a lawn that is mowed in the same pattern every cut.
Turn & Drive Slowly
Learning how to drive a tractor lawn mower seems pretty straightforward until you start to notice ruts, flattened grass, and even sections of grass completely missing. When I first used a tractor mower, I started to notice areas of flattened grass whenever I made turns. When I first learned how to use a zero-turn mower, the turns would really flatten out the grass whenever I didn’t have both wheels turning at the same time. So, my advice is to slow down a bit and take wider turns.
Keep Off Wet Grass
Wet grass and riding lawn mowers really don’t mix. So the best thing you can do to avoid flattened grass with your riding mower is always to avoid mowing wet grass. Don’t mow in the rain, after the rain, and even after running your irrigation system.
If you usually mow on the same day as your irrigation runs, swapping your mowing days would be a good idea. Only mowing your grass when it is dry will not only help to keep your grass standing upright, but it will also help you avoid making muddy ruts.
Select the Best Blade Type
Usually, your lawn mower will come with a standard multipurpose blade which includes elements of high lift and mulch blades. But it’s worth checking that your blade is actually what you think it is. Also, if you have a grass type that likes to be cut longer, such as St. Augustine, you might need some extra power in your blade. So, if you don’t think your lawn mower blade is lifting the grass enough, then a blade upgrade could help.
Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated
Last on my list for preventing lawn mower wheels from flattening grass is to keep your tires inflated correctly at all times. Now if you are not sure what the tire pressure should be, you can look in your lawn mower user manual.
Alternatively, if you look on the side of the tire, you should find a number next to where it says max tire PSI. This is the maximum pressure that the tire should be inflated to. So, if the tire pressure is close to this number, you should be fine. Just don’t go over this number, as you could end up blowing up your tire.