Fall Lawn Care
Fall lawn care is important for Lawn health. It is as important in many respects as is spring. There are a number of things that should be done in the fall, all to assist your lawn grasses in preparing for the winter.
Fall is also the one season where your lawn will look it’s best! It is one of the only times of the year where growing conditions for almost any lawn type (and particularly the Cool Season Grasses) are ideal. The weather is cooling off some so the grass is not as subject to drought conditions as it during the summer.
Typically, you’ll get more rainfall so you wont have to water as much. The cooler evenings relieve the grass of heat related stress. Take advantage of these great conditions and insure that your lawn is ready for the cold winter. Below is a fall lawn maintenance program to help you in getting the best possible lawn possible.
Aerate and Dethatch
For Cool season grasses Aerating and detatching in the fall is desirable. Both of these activities are damaging and stressful . But they are necessary and ultimately beneficial. Aerating and Dethatching should only be done during periods of active growth. For the cool season grasses Fall is the ideal time to aerate and dethatch. For the Warm season grasses this is best done during late Spring or early Summer.
If you have a lawn that has heavy traffic, the soil in it is likely to be heavily compressed. Subsequently root development is limited, and oxygen levels are reduced in the soil. Core aeration will pull plugs of soil from the ground. This will open up the soil and allow it to expand into the holes left behind. You can also take advantage of the plugs pulled from the soil to analyze how much thatch has built up in your lawn. Examine one of the cores or plugs that is complete You should have a pretty good cutaway view and can see how much thatch has built up. If the thatch is over ½” of thickness then you should dethatch as well. Refer to the section on Aeration and Dethatching for more information
Fertilization is an important aspect of fall lawn care. Typical fall fertilizing programs emphasize Potassium and nitrogen , with a minimal amount of phosphorous. A typical fall fertilizer for cool season grasses may be a 22-3-14. This is 22% Nitrogen, 3% Phosphorous and 14% Potassium.
The nitrogen and potassium will help the lawn grasses grow a more extensive root system. They will also help develop new stems and shoots. Another key benefit of fertilizing in the fall is that of building up a store of carbohydrates. This will help the lawn grass make it through the winter.
Fall feeding is beneficial to both grass types, Cools season as well as warm season. Cool season grasses can be fed twice in the fall, once in early September and again in mid to late October. Warm Season grasses should be fed early in the fall. Early September being a good time for this. Warm weather grasses are entering a period of slow leaf growth. Fertilizing in early fall allow it to develop it’s root system and store carbohydrates. Please refer to the section on Fertilization for additional information.
Clean up (Leaves)
Another important aspect of fall lawn maintenance is cleaning up the leaves that are falling off the trees. Leaving the leaves on your lawn for extended periods of time rob it of the benefit of Sun, air and water. Which are all essential elements to a healthy turf grass and a great looking lawn. It’s best to remove leaves completely, although for small quantities mowing it in with a mulching blade should be ok.
Continue to mow your lawn until it enters dormancy and the grass stops actively growing. No height adjustments are necessary . If you are compelled to mow lower, make it incrementally lower, certainly mow no lower then 20% of the height you normally mow to.
Since fall is an active growing season it is also an ideal time to start a new lawn or overseed and existing lawn. There are two types of overseeding that you might do during the fall. The first is to overseed an existing cool season grass with seed of the same grass type to fill in bald or thin spots. The second is to overseed a warm season lawn with a cool season grass to give it a green look over the winter. Rye Grasses are often used when overseeding cool weather lawns. Both perennial and annual grasses are used for overseeding warm season grasses. Annual rye is preferable since it wont compete with the warm season grass once winter is over. A perennial rye will continue to grow and compete with the warm weather grass.
Please refer to the section on this site for the lawn type that you have for more information on overseeding and new lawn information.