Fall is definitely well under way, but that’s no excuse to abandon your lawn. Your turf needs your attention at all times of the year, but especially now, when late season seeding, watering, and fertilization can mean the difference between a vigorous, healthy lawn and one that’s sick and spindly come spring.
In particular, now is the time to get your grass prepped for the long winter ahead by feeding it plenty of nutrients—and ensuring that it can absorb them all. Of course, knowing how to do just that—and when to do it—can make or break your turf game. Here are a few pointers you may not have heard yet, and some things you can do to get your grass all set for the colder weather ahead.
Continue Watering Well into Fall
Most people think they can turn off the sprinklers the minute the weather gets just the slightest bit cooler—after all, nature will take it from here, right? Not so. Lawns should be watered up to the first frost in order to keep them well-hydrated during the fall. That way, they’ll be healthy enough to survive any hot and dry spells that occur throughout this period. In fact, if you live in the north, your grass is busy establishing roots right now, which means it’s important it stays watered so as not to impinge on this growth. So keep those sprinklers going!
Your Fall Lawn Care Regimen Depends on the Type of Grass You Have
You probably see articles recommending you do this or that to your lawn, but actually it’s hard to give an exact prescription for the perfect lawn care regimen. That’s because the steps depend on the type of grass you have in your lawn. Cool season grasses like fescue, ryegrass or Kentucky bluegrass need plenty of fertilizer in the fall to sustain their root systems over the winter. Warm season grasses, however, like Bermuda, zoysia and St. Augustine go dormant much earlier in the season, and so may not need as much primping and tending to.
Falling Leaves Can Harm Your Turf
Ever left something out on your lawn for a couple of days, only to discover a patch of sickly, pale grass underneath it afterwards? A similar thing occurs when the trees drop their leaves. While a leaf or two here and there won’t really hurt anything, a heavy coat of fallen foliage can imperil your turf, robbing it of vital sun and moisture. To prevent that from happening, it’s best to rake leaves regularly and thoroughly.
Now’s the Perfect Time to Aerate Your Soil
Turf-covered soil can become compacted over time, especially if you have a lot of clay or silt in your soil composition. When compaction happens, it’s more difficult for the roots to take in nutrients, which means a less lush, healthy lawn in the spring. You may not need to aerate your soil every year, but you should at least address it ocassionally with a core aerator to keep growth steady and dependable.
Always Overseed Your Lawn
Seeding your lawn is one of those few times where “too much of a good thing” doesn’t apply. Overseeding for a thicker, fuller lawn is a pretty good battle plan against weeds, since your best defense against dandelions and other invaders is a healthy, vibrant lawn. So go ahead, spread that seed with a liberal hand. It will also help to fill in any bald patches that resulted from summer dry spells. Win-win!
Wait for Colder Weather to Fertilize
In life, timing is everything. The same adage holds true for your lawn. If you fertilize cool season grasses too early, the turf will get confused and start sending up new growth: tender, young blades that will die off the next time there’s a frost—and use up your grass’s winter food supply in the process. Always wait until late fall to apply fertilizer, and use a slow-release granular product that will tide your grass over until spring.
Kill Weeds Naturally with Vinegar
Fall’s a great time to attack common weeds like dandelions and plantains. The reason? Just like your grass, weeds are about to go into conservation mode for the winter, meaning they’re more likely to be in a weakened state right now, and thus, easier to remove. Instead of spreading a bunch of pesticides, however, try hitting them with a mixture of 5 parts vinegar, 2 parts water and 1 part everyday dish soap. The solution, when applied with a spray bottle, stops dandelions in their tracks—without harming beneficial micro-organisms in your soil. A healthier, all-natural lawn? Where do I sign up?