Autumn is here and the cold temperatures and harsh weather of Winter are fast approaching. While you strive to enjoy the last of the sunshine and warm weather, lawn care is probably far from your mind. However, your fall lawn maintenance plan is crucial to achieving a lush, green lawn in the Spring. While grass grows more slowly in autumn, it’s also gearing up for its long dormancy in the winter ahead by absorbing nutrients and moisture. The efforts you make now will lead to a gorgeous and healthy lawn the following spring. Luckily, the process is relatively simple: just follow these tips.
Over time, the soil underneath your lawn begins to pack down – especially in areas of your yard that see heavy use. Hard and dense soil prevents essential nutrients from reaching down to the roots, which is detrimental to the health of your lawn. Fall is an ideal time to aerate your turf.
Aeration breaks up areas of soil compaction by removing plugs of earth and allowing water, air, and lawn treatments to penetrate past the surface to improve overall lawn health.
If you have a small lawn, you can easily aerate it with a garden fork by poking holes into the soil every two to six inches across your lawn. For larger lawns or for more effective results, your best bet is to rent a self-propelled, walk-behind aerator. These gas-powered machines easily punch holes into your lawn, making the aeration process efficient and effective.
As the temperature starts to cool, the growth of grass blades slows, but the roots and rhizomes continue to grow. This natural growth cycle makes Fall the best time to fertilize your lawn. A fertilizer treatment provides the nutrients required for the grass roots to grow deep and also acts as a food reserve during the Winter to get a jump start on healthy growth come springtime.
Ideally, you should apply fertilizer to your lawn twice each Fall. The first treatment should be done in either late August or early September, and the second one right before the first frost.
If you aerate your lawn during the fall, try to apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer soon after to ensure the nutrients easily reach deep into the soil. Combining these two important tasks yields great results when the grass grows again.
It’s common for bare or burned patches to appear on your lawn during the Summer. This is due to heavy traffic, disease, pest infestation, droughts, and other reasons. No matter the cause, it’s a good idea to take care of those unsightly spots in the fall so you have an even carpet of grass next Spring.
Most people wrongly assume that Spring is the ideal time to plant new grass, but most experts agree that it’s actually best to plant grass seed in the Fall – even if you’re just filling in some bare spots. During the Fall, the soil is still warm to allow for faster seed germination, but the cooling temperatures mean less stress on the new seedlings. There are also fewer concerns over crabgrass and other weeds popping up. Another bonus of Fall planting is your seed has both the Fall and Spring growing seasons to get established before the next Summer.
Seeding bare spots is a simple process. First, use a garden rake to loosen the soil and scratch away any thatch. Seeds won’t germinate unless they are touching the soil. Next, spread a thick layer of the seed, then lightly tamp it down. Finally, water the newly planted area and continue a regular watering schedule for the following two weeks. You can speed up the job and get great results by using a lawn repair mixture that contains fertilizer and mulch along with the grass seed.
Fallen Autumn leaves may look colorful and invite play, but when left to lay in piles, they can damage your grass. A thick carpet of leaves blocks sunlight and traps moisture, effectively suffocating your lawn. Damp piles of leaves are also prime breeding ground for fungi and increase the chance of fungal diseases spreading to your grass.
When the leaves are falling, blow or rake them away as often as you can. Even after the trees are bare, continue raking out leaves from corners and along structures where the wind tends to blow them. This step is critical to prevent the fallen leaves from becoming a soggy, decaying mess that will kill your grass. Raking also removes any build-up of lawn thatch that can block water absorption and play host to harmful insects.
While grass growth noticeably slows as Summer turns to Fall, it doesn’t stop growing entirely until the temperature drops enough for it to frost over. You have to keep mowing as usual until this happens. Cut your grass to the normal height, the same as you do all Summer long. You may want to consider dropping the mower’s blades for the final cutting or two of the year but never trim more than one-third of the leaf at a time.
Once the grass-cutting season is over, you need to winterize your mower by performing the following maintenance steps:
Proper care and regular maintenance help you spot problems early on to extend the life of your mower. Stay safe, and get a professional to perform the service if you are unsure what to do.
Watering is essential to help your lawn recover from the Summer, help new seeds to grow, and even make fertilizer treatments work. The Autumn months typically bring more frequent rains, and falling temperatures mean less evaporation. It’s possible for rainfall alone to provide enough natural moisture to sustain your lawn and keep the grass healthy.
Pay close attention to the weather and use a rain gauge to measure how much water your lawn receives. One inch or more per week is sufficient moisture for most lawns. If your area doesn’t get adequate rain, you must continue to water your grass. Aim for soaking the area thoroughly every few days instead of more frequent, shallow watering. Adjust the amount of water you add as needed. If you received one-half inch of rain, just add another one-half inch of water to reach the desired overall amount. Start to reduce your watering as temperatures drop into the lower 30s. Once the ground freezes, the water cannot penetrate the soil.
Getting your lawn ready for Fall involves simple steps that pay off in a big way the following year. The timing and schedule of your Fall yard maintenance tasks determine how successful your efforts will be.
If you have any questions about preparing your lawn for Winter and getting a jump start on Spring, we would love to help you. Give us a call to get expert advice and product recommendations. Or request a Free Estimate of your landscape by a Ryan Pro to get personalized, professional lawn care services.