Now that summer is coming to an end, you’ll need to take a different approach to lawn care. While you likely won’t have to do as much to your lawn during the fall season, maintaining the grass will increase the chances that your lawn will be lush and green when warm weather returns. You may even find that it’s easier to tend to your lawn in the fall since the temperature will be cooler, allowing you to be more productive in your yardwork as a result.
Here are a few practical suggestions that can keep your lawn looking its best after summer is over.
Don’t Stop Mowing the Lawn
Even during the fall, you should mow and water the lawn whenever you see that it’s necessary. Near the end of the fall, make sure the lawn mower blade is on the lowest possible setting so that you can gently cut the grass for the year’s final two mowings. This makes it easier for the sun to get to the crown of the blades of grass, which means your lawn is less likely to develop brown spots during the winter. When you lower the blade setting, be careful not to trim more than one-third of the grass blades during each mowing. You can also lower the height of the grass gradually until it’s time to mow the grass for the last two times of the year.
Keep the Soil Aerated
Fall is one of the best times to aerate the lawn. This keeps oxygen, fertilizer and water in the soil so that these necessary components can reach the roots of the grass. If you don’t have an aerator, you can rent one from a home improvement or garden supply store for around $70 per day. The device is gas-powered and is usually a walk-behind model, similar to a lawn mower. The aerator pokes deep holes into the soil and takes up the dirt from the holes so that nutrients can easily get to the roots of the grass. If you have a large front or back yard, this process could be time-consuming, so you may want to hire a contractor to take care of this fall maintenance step for you.
Rake the Leaves
Raking leaves is often a chore most people would rather not do, but it’s best to remove leaves from your lawn as quickly as you can. Don’t wait until you see lots of leaves falling from the trees in your yard to add raking to your fall lawn maintenance routine. Putting off raking increases the chances that the rain will makes the leaves too wet, and they’ll start to stick together. This can also happen when the dew appears in the morning. When a blanket of wet leaves is on your yard, the leaves will be harder to remove; they can also stifle the grass and lead to fungal disease.
If the mere thought of raking leaves stresses you out, you can use a lawnmower that has been filled with a trash bag or vacuum system. This works well when you have a big yard or if you have trees that shed leaves often. No matter what method you use, be sure to get the leaves off the ground before they get soggy.
Fertilize the Lawn
Generally, lawn care experts agree that if you use fertilizer on your lawn once a year, you should do it during the autumn season. When the weather cools, the grass grows slower, but the rhizomes and roots of the grass keep growing at a faster rate. Rhizomes are the plant stems that grow horizontally under the surface of the soil. The rhizomes produce blades of grass above the soil and at the roots. If you apply fertilizer at the roots, you’ll be giving your lawn essential nutrients so that your grass will grow deep and healthy roots. This also ensures that there are nutrients available for when the grass starts growing in the spring.
It’s best to fertilize the lawn in the middle to end of fall, then apply a dry fertilizer to all the areas of the lawn that are especially grassy. To guarantee thorough coverage of your yard, use a broadcast spreader that has a crank or a drop spreader. This process may take a little longer if your lawn has lots of hills, so the drop spreader works best to ensure there is an even layer of fertilizer.
Treat the “Bald” Spots
Fall is an ideal time to treat the bare areas of your lawn. You can do this quickly and efficiently with a lawn repair mixture. You can purchase this mixture at most home improvement stores and it contains grass seed along with mulch and a fertilizer. Using a garden rake, scratch the soil at the bare spot in the lawn. Put a layer of the mixture on the area and lightly pat it before watering the spot. Keep watering the spot every day for about two weeks for best results.
Control the Weeds
You should stop the growth of weeds, especially broad weeds like dandelions, as soon as you can. Weeds can grow abundantly during the fall and they soak up all the nutrients in the soil. Some weeds can also soak up weed killers, making them less effective. Fall is the time when you should apply an herbicide to the lawn, so the weeds won’t come back during spring. Be sure to read the label on the herbicide before using it and apply the solution in early to middle fall. This is when the temperatures in the daytime are consistently higher than 60⁰F before the winter.
Spread the Seeds
Your lawn should be dense so that the grass is protected from weeds. Be sure to over-seed the turf so that the thin areas of the lawn will be filled in. This is crucial in helping the grass to be resistant to drought, since it doesn’t rain as much during the colder months of the year. During the fall, the ground is still warm and there is more moisture in the soil. The nights are also cooler, and the sun isn’t as hot, which makes over-seeding more effective. Be sure to allow the seeds to come in contact with the soil and keep them moist until germination. The seeds also need time to germinate before the weather gets too cold, which is why the beginning of fall is the best time for this process. To ensure even distribution, rent a silt seeder, or hire a professional to do the job, since the machine can tear up the turf.
Maintain a Schedule
Make sure that you perform the right steps for fall lawn maintenance at the right time to keep your lawn looking great. Don’t over-seed too late in the season, because the seedlings will be too fragile to survive the winter. If you fertilize the lawn too early the grass will sprout tender blades that will die during the cold weather. If you wait too late to fertilize, the roots of the grass won’t have the ability to take in all the nutrients. Don’t try to aerate in the spring to get an early start on maintenance, because spring aeration will make it easier for weeds to develop.
If you find that sticking to a fall lawn schedule is too challenging, hire a professional lawn care service to take care of this important task for you. The professionals at Cortada Landscaping have the tools and techniques necessary to make your lawn one you’ll be proud of.