Fall Lawn-Care Tips
- Home Owner Tips
- Wednesday, August 27, 2014
With fall nearly upon us and winter rapidly approaching, you’re probably not spending much time thinking about your lawn. But fall, with its cooler temperatures and periodic rainfalls, is the ideal time to prepare your lawn for next spring.
Many homeowners think their lawn need less care in the fall because the grass grows more slowly. In fact, just the opposite is true. The best time to apply lawn fertilizer is when grass roots are building up natural sugars to store over the long cold Canadian winter. Give it a little attention now, and you’ll be rewarded with a lush, healthy spring lawn. Just follow these six tips.
Keep on Mowing
Continue to water and mow your lawn, as needed, throughout the fall. If you raised the height of your lawn mower in summer to reduce heat stress to your lawn, return the mower deck to its normal mowing height (about 2 inches tall is best for most grasses) in fall. That will allow more sunlight to reach the crown of the grass, and there will be less leaf to turn brown during the winter.
Aerate the Soil
Fall is an ideal time to aerate your lawn so that oxygen, water, and fertilizer can easily reach the grass’s roots. You can rent a gas-powered, walk-behind lawn aerator for about $70 per day. The self-propelled machine will quickly punch holes into the soil and extract plugs of dirt. If you’ve got a very large yard – say, more than 3 or 4 acres – and don’t feel like aerating it yourself, hire a landscaping contractor.
Rake the Leaves
I know raking leaves is no one’s idea of fun, but it’s important to remove fallen leaves from your lawn as soon as possible. Don’t wait until all the leaves have fallen from the trees to start raking. If you do, the leaves will become wet from rain and morning dew, stick together, and form an impenetrable mat that if left unmoved will suffocate the grass and breed fungal diseases.
An alternative to raking leaves is to use a lawnmower fitted with a collection bag or vacuum system. These methods are particularly effective if you have a very large yard with many deciduous trees. A mulching mower also works well to shred small amounts of leaves and returns the shredded organic matter to the soil, much like top dressing. Regardless of whether you use a rake or a lawnmower, just be sure to remove the leaves before they turn into a soggy, suffocating mess.
Most lawn experts agree: If you fertilize your lawn only once a year, do it in the fall. The reason? Grass leaves grow much more slowly as the weather turns cool, but the grass roots and rhizomes continue to grow quickly. (Rhizomes are the horizontal plant stems that lie just beneath the soil’s surface; they produce the blades of grass above and the roots below.) Cool-season grasses, such as bluegrass, fescue, and ryegrass, respond well to feeding in early September and again in late fall (late October or November). A fall application of fertilizer delivers essential nutrients for the grass to grow deep roots now and to keep nutrients on reserve for a healthy start next spring.
Wait until mid-to-late fall, then apply a dry lawn fertilizer to all grassy areas; be careful not to miss any spots. You could use a crank-style broadcast spreader, but for optimum coverage, consider using a walk-behind drop spreader. It takes a little longer, especially on hilly yards, but a drop spreader provides the best way to apply an even, consistent layer of fertilizer.
Fill in Bald Patches
Early fall is a great time to reseed any small dead or thin patches in cool-season lawns. If you seed in the fall, you’ll have fewer weeds. And the seedlings will become established before stressful hot weather conditions arrive. A mulch product embedded with seed and fertilizer is a convenient way to fill the gaps.
Dandelions, clover, and other broadleaf weeds are easy to spot in spring, but fall is the best time to rid your yard of these pests. Weeds, like most plants, are in the energy-absorbing mode during the fall. They’re drinking in everything that comes their way, including weed killers. Apply an herbicide now and the weeds won’t return in the spring.
Read the package label before use. Most herbicide manufacturers recommend applying the weed killer during early-to-mid fall, when daytime temperatures are consistently above 15 degrees Celsius.