For many homeowners, fall is a time of relief. It’s a time to take a break from mowing and fertilizing and managing weeds, and let the lawn fend for itself for a few months. Before that can happen, though, there are a few important tasks that need to be completed. Skip them, and you’ll likely be very disappointed in your yard come springtime – and have even more work to do then.
When we are kids, raking the leaves doesn’t necessarily equate work. After all, is there anything more fun than jumping in a fresh pile of fallen leaves? As an adult? Not so much. But raking the leaves up from the grass in the fall is one of the most important things you need to do to ensure healthy green grass in the spring. Leaves left on the grass will block light and oxygen from the grass underneath, leaving you with dead patches of turf in a few months. As the leaves fall, rake or blow them, or use your lawn mower’s mulching setting to keep them from killing the grass.
It might feel odd to spread grass seed in the fall, but if you have a thick, healthy lawn in the fall, you have a better chance of a healthy lawn in the spring. Overseeding the lawn – spreading seed across the entire turf – helps to fill in thin or bare patches and helps introduce hardier types of grass into your lawn. However, you can’t simply head outside sometime in November, spread some grass seed and hope for the best. To ensure the best results, you need to plant your seeds when the days are still relatively warm and sunny, the nights cool, and you can still maintain adequate moisture. This usually means spreading seed in the early fall, before the first frost. In fact, the sooner you overseed the better, as when the frost hits, new, tender grass seedlings will not survive.
Much like most animal life needs to build up their nutrition before a long winter, so does your lawn. Giving your grass a boost of nitrogen-rich fertilizer in the fall (usually in late October/early November) can help nourish the roots and develop enough chlorophyll to ensure that the grass comes back green and healthy in the spring. Choose a fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen and potassium; potassium can help with disease prevention and cold resistance, as well as support root growth. If you aren’t sure which fertilizer formula to purchase, conduct a soil test that will tell you which nutrients are lacking and what you need to add for a healthy lawn.
Over time, the soil in your lawn can become compacted and thick with roots and stems. This can prevent water and nutrients from reaching the roots of the grass, leading to dead patches and weak grass. Aerating the lawn – using a tool to poke holes in the soil and break up the thatch, can help introduce more oxygen and water and ensure a healthier lawn. You only need to aerate every few years, but if it has been a while since you’ve done it, now is the time. Do it before you fertilize to ensure that the fertilizer can reach the grass roots where it’s needed the most.
Mow and Water
Finally, keep up with mowing and watering well into mid-fall. Reset the blades on your mower to keep the grass a bit longer. In general, you should plan to mow your grass 1-1.5 inches higher than usual in the fall, as grass that is too short will not be as healthy come spring. You will notice that the grass grows more slowly in the fall; once it appears to stop growing entirely, you can put the lawn mower away for the winter.
Taking care of your lawn in the fall can make your life a lot easier in the spring. You won’t have to correct as much damage, and you won’t find the dreaded dead patches left by piles of soggy leaves. With the right care, plus some seed and fertilizer, you’ll have a green, healthy lawn that is envious throughout your neighborhood..