LAWN SEASON BEGINS IN THE FALL
You’ve probably heard us say this more than once, but it bears repeating: Fall is one of the most important seasons for lawn care! While many homeowners think of fall as the end of the gardening year and begin to neglect their yards, lawn pros see the fall as the beginning of lawn season, and do what they can to improve the lawn and soil quality at this time.
In the fall, especially in the North, lawns have the opportunity to re-build, repair and thicken up after going through the stresses of summer. The lawn attempts to expand its root system at this time, digging in and getting to more of the soil nutrients. It also increases blade growth, making more carbohydrates (food) and some of this food is stored for spring and summer use.
In the fall, conditions are usually more favorable for seeding too. The weather should be cooler and moister, and there will be less weed and disease pressure to contend with.
So without further ado, here are some fall lawn care tips!
Be sure to do an early fall fertilizing. In our lawn service business, we save our heaviest fertilizing of the year for the early fall. This stimulates growth and helps the grass send out tillers and runners to fill in thin spots. It also helps the grass produce the food that it stores to help it through the winter, and which gets it off to a good start in the spring.
Focus on soil improvement. Clay and soil compaction can prevent your lawn from being healthy even when you are doing everything else right. With a porous, bio-active soil, the grass roots can become fuller and go deeper. When the soil has better structure, the naturally occurring soil nutrients, as well as the nutrients from your fertilizers, become more easily available to the grass and other plants in your yard. Our company uses a liquid soil conditioner called Aerify PLUS to help aerate and bio-activate soils, and to provide some readily available organic matter. (As a matter of disclosure, we developed and sell this product on-line). Other traditional methods of soil improvement we recommend are compost top-dressing, or calcium/lime (if soils test acidic).
Handle any thatch that might have formed over the summer. Thatch is not just old grass clippings sitting on top of the lawn. Real thatch is a tightly matted barrier that could not be raked off without tearing up the lawn. Read more about thatch in our recent post.
Over-seed your lawn. The early fall is the absolute best possible time to seed your lawn if you live in the north. There are many reasons to over-seed your lawn. Aside from thickening it up, you can introduce newer, more heat-, insect-, and disease-tolerant grass types. Get new grass seed established in the early fall and it will thicken further in the spring. You can seed any bare or thin areas now and up till early October.
If your lawn does not have a thatch barrier, a simple over-seed can be done this way: spread seed over the existing grass and water heavily to work the seed down to the soil. Then keep the soil damp for a few weeks. A lot of this seed will take hold, especially if you spray Aerify PLUS right after seeding.
Practice seasonally appropriate mowing. Keep the grass fairly high into the early fall (unless your lawn is mostly bentgrass, which needs to be cut shorter). This will help the grass root deeper, thicken up, and build up food reserves. Don’t start mowing short just because the weather turns cooler. Lawn season is not over yet!
When the lawn’s growth begins to slow down, that is your signal to begin mowing shorter. Gradually lower the mowing height so it is 1 ½ inch high or less before winter. Bentgrass lawns can be cut even shorter.
Last but not least: be sure to keep the leaves from matting up on the lawn! Too many leaves left on the lawn can cause the grass the die back or rot, so make sure you rake up leaves if they tend to form a thick layer over your lawn. Leaves make for excellent compost though, so if you don’t feel like bagging, try dumping them around your shrubs and trees, or in your gardens beds.