The Ultimate Fall Checklist for a Great Lawn
With Fall upon us, the weather will continue to get cooler. Before your lawn goes dormant for the winter, there are things you should do to ensure that your grass remains healthy through the cold season and into the spring. Here is a checklist to make sure you have a fantastic lawn next spring:
As long as your grass is still growing, you should still mow, although you may be able to do so less frequently than in spring and early summer. You should lower your mower to the two-inch height if you raised it during the summer, as cutting the grass short reduces unsightly browning. Also, long grass is more vulnerable to snow, mold and other fungal affections. Make sure not to cut it too short, though, as that can mess up the root system. Mowing short also makes it easier to overseed.
Aerate. Every couple of years, you should aerate your lawn so that the soil does not turn into a mat of roots and debris. Use a core aerator (or hire a lawn professional). Then fertilize afterward, as this means the fertilizer goes straight to the roots. Never aerate in the spring, as all you do is open space for weeds. You can learn more about our core aeration services here.
Fertilize. Mid-to-late fall is the best time to fertilize. Use a dry, slow-release fertilizer, with a 24-0-10 percentage. If you have or can borrow one, a walk-behind drop spreader is the best way to provide even coverage. If you have a stream or pond, though, do not fertilize within five feet of the spring to protect the waterway from runoff. Also, do not fertilize dormant grass unless you have ryegrass. You are likely to end up fertilizing the weeds instead.
In addition, you can learn about our fertilization services here.
Keep watering. Your lawn needs about an inch of water a week through the end of October. You can use a rain gauge to see how much natural water your lawn is getting. As always, water in the morning, not the evening.
Overseed. Reseed any bare patches and, based on how thick your lawn is, consider overseeding the entire lawn. However, seeding can be challenging. Broadcast seeds seldom sprout. Instead, you need to rent a slit seeder. For bare patches, use a garden rake to loosen the soil and then spread lawn repair mixture. Water every other day for two weeks. You want to overseed in the fall because of the moist ground, lower heat, and lingering warmth. In warm climates, overseed with ryegrass, which will give you a nice green lawn all the way through the winter. If you have really bad bald patches, you may want to patch with new, high-quality sod. Learn more about overseeding here.
Rake leaves. Never leave them be. A layer of leaves on your lawn will kill the grass, either by suffocation or by the growth of fungi. If you have a very large lawn, use a lawnmower fitted with a collection bag and gather up the leaves when you mow. Also, bear in mind that leaf piles can be havens for fleas (if you have a dog) and ticks. Always dispose of your leaves properly. An alternative is to use a mulching kit with your mower to turn the fallen leaves into mulch, which will help fertilize the grass. To save you time and energy, you may want to consider our leaf removal services, details are here.
Weed. The fall is a great time to deal with those dandelions that have invaded. If you apply herbicide now, it is going to be much more effective. Early-to-mid autumn is the best time. You want daytime temperatures that are still above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, or the weeds will be dormant and not taking in nutrients (and herbicide). Spray when the soil is moist for greater efficiency.
Maintain your irrigation system. If you have an irrigation system, you should still run it until October. Then you should do your annual maintenance on the system. Completely drain the system and flush with compressed air, or use drain valves. If you have multiple zones, drain them separately. Don’t forget the main line from the house. Disconnect all hoses. You may want to bring hoses and movable pipes into the garage where there will be a more consistent temperature. Discovering you have a frozen, and broken, irrigation pipe in spring is a huge frustration.
Check for thatch. Thatch is when the soil under your lawn ends up as a mat of dead organic matter. It’s caused by drought or, paradoxically, by overwatering or excessive fertilizer. Remove a plug. A normal lawn will have half an inch or less of thatch. If you have more than that, you need to dethatch. Use a power rake or vertical mower to pull the thatch out, then rake it by hand. If you have grass with surface runners, such as centipedegrass, you need a special machine with correctly-spaced knives. Cleaning out the thatch will improve the health of your lawn and make it much greener in the spring. Aerating also reduces thatch.
We can assist you by closing your irrigation system in October and opening it in April as well as provide repair, maintenance, and installation as needed. You can learn more about our irrigation services here.
Top dress. After dethatching or aerating, apply a thin layer of soil or compost and rake it in. This improves the quality of the soil and will also make your lawn more even and level. In some cases, you can do this instead of fertilizing. You want a layer of loam, sand and peat.
Winterize your lawn mower. Before you put your mower away for the winter, you should do basic maintenance. You should always clean the deck. If you have a gasoline-powered mower, run the tank dry if possible. You should store it empty if storing it in the house, or full with a fuel stabilizer (after running for a few minutes) if storing in the garage or shed. Now is also a good time to change the oil and sharpen the blades. For electric mowers, take out the batteries and bring them indoors, as temperature changes shorten the life of lithium batteries. This will make sure that your mower is ready to go in the spring.
So, there you have it. Eleven things you should do for your lawn and your gear before winter hits to make sure that next year you have a beautiful lawn and yard to enjoy!