Fall requires a specific plan of action to keep it looking its best. It’s not difficult to keep your lawn in tip-top shape during fall, and doing so will take you through into winter and beyond in a much better state.
Husband-and-wife lawn and garden enthusiasts Mike and Jane Anderson share how research has led them to the following fall lawn care approach.
Controlling the Weeds
I’m going to assume you kept on top of the weeds during summer when they can really get out of control. If you didn’t, you’re going to be fighting an uphill struggle going into fall. It’s important to rake or blow away leaves as they fall onto your lawn during fall. Leaves can cause damp patches that attract insects and provide the ideal conditions for weeds to start springing up.
Mowing Your Lawn
You need to lower your mower height a little as you mow your lawn through the months of fall. The growth of your lawn is going to slow down a lot heading into the colder months but a mistake here a lot of people make is trying to keep their lawn high thinking it will be stronger. Ideally, you want to get your lawn length down to around 1.5” as fall comes to an end. Depending on the weather where you live, mowing in the evening is best when the sun has gone down. (EDITOR’S NOTE – ideal grass height depends on where you live and grass type. For instance, cool-season turf should be in the 2.5-inch area, whereas warm-season turf could go down to 1.5 inches.)
Dealing with Leaves
As mentioned in the opening comments, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of loose leaves falling on your lawn during fall. I always used to rake the leaves off each evening, but I’m having a lot of fun with a leaf blower lately. (EDITOR’S NOTE – there are also bigger blowers for bigger applications, including walk-behind models and even attachments for mowers and tractors.)
Leaving leaves on your lawn causes decomposition and attracts all kinds of insects and weeds if you don’t remove them. This is even more important if the temperatures are starting to drop rapidly where you live.
Don't Forget to Aerate
After a long summer of high temperatures and lots of watering, your lawn is going to be a lot more compact than in spring and need aerating. Aerating creates air flow into the soil and allows your lawn to receive more nutrients.
There are some specific tools that make aerating easy. But all you may need to do is dig a fork into the soil to allow some airflow. Fall is typically the only season in the year you need to do this unless you’re experiencing some patching problems.
Overseeding before Winter
I always overseed before winter comes as this is the best time to even out a lawn. Summer usually causes some patching or damage to areas of a lawn that doesn’t receive the same amount of water and sunlight as the healthy areas.
Overseeding is quick and easy, just spread some grass seed over your lawn and combined with the other steps mentioned in this article you’re going to get a nice, even, full-looking lawn.
Fertilizer and Feeding
You should be fertilizing your lawn early in fall with a fertilizer formulated for fall. Fall fertilizers are higher in nitrogen, a compound that helps to strengthen lawns at the roots.
This feed will help your lawn survive a harsh winter and flourish in spring. This is one of the most important aspects of fall lawn care and shouldn’t be overlooked.
As you can see from the above points, it’s really not difficult to maintain your lawn during fall. It is however possibly the most important season to fertilize your lawn. Winter is harsh on lawns and can do irreparable damage if you’re not prepared.
Mike and Jane Anderson are gardening and DIY enthusiasts who operate yardday.com. Mike has degrees in horticulture and engineering, making him one of the most respected voices in the field of home lawn care. A hands-on type of guy, the only thing he loves more than being outdoors is researching and testing products and treatments.