Fixing Ruts in Your Lawn

Are ruts showing up on your lawn, leaving areas bare? There are several issues that cause this problem, ranging from poor lawn care practices to dead vegetation. Here’s how you can address these problems, as well as what you can do to repair the ruts in your yard.

What Causes Ruts?

If you mow the same way every time, the wheels of your mower will compress the soil. Break up your routine by trying different mowing patterns. The same goes for foot traffic. If you’re walking over the same place over and over again, you will compress the soil. Have a dog in the backyard? Often, they like to run back and forth over the same spots, compressing the ground while tearing up the grass.

Avoid driving vehicles over your lawn. The weight compacts soil and the tires can rip out turf. Likewise, using the wrong tires on your equipment can cause ruts. Turf tires have large lugs and wide profiles that spread out the load, while garden tires have long, deep lugs that dig into bare soil. If you use garden tires on turf, they will tear up the grass, especially when making turns.

Wet soil compacts more easily than dry soil, compounding the problem. If you see blades of grass bent over from water, you can be sure the ground is too wet to mow.

Sometimes, it’s not your equipment causing the problem, it’s what’s underneath the soil. When organic matter breaks down, it can leave gaps in the soil, allowing the turf to collapse inward. This is usually caused by the decomposition of dead tree roots.

Repairing Ruts

The best time to repair ruts is when grass growth is at its peak. For warm-season grasses, this is late spring. For cool-season grasses, this is early fall.

Ruts that are less than four inches deep are caused by compacted soil and can be relieved by lifting the soil off of the ground. Using a spade, pry up the topsoil at a 45-degree angle. The lifted sod should stand about two inches above the surrounding ground. Over time, the soil will settle and flatten out, eliminating the rut.

Deeper ruts need to be filled in with dirt. Cut out the sod in the rut, and set it aside. Fill the hole with a mix of soil and either sand or compost. This encourages deep root growth, which helps anchor the new dirt into the ground. This fill dirt should be one to two inches above the surrounding topsoil. Put the sod you cut out earlier on top of the new dirt and overseed as needed.

Need Help with Your Lawn Care Equipment?

Shank’s Lawn Equipment carries a wide range of equipment brands, covering everything from residential walk-behind mowers to small tractors. Want to cut down on scalping and ruts? We carry anti-scalping wheels, turf tires, and other accessories for all the brands we carry. When you need help with your outdoor equipment, visit our shop at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA, or see what we offer online at We ship parts and accessories across the USA and Canada.

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