You might think of fall as a buffer between summer and winter when the growing season begins to grind to a halt. The lush greens you’ve enjoyed from late spring through summer give ways to the brown, orange, and red of fall. It makes sense to assume that the time has come to give your landscaping duties a rest. After all, the leaves are falling, and so soon will the snow. Yet, you might be surprised to know that fall is the most important season for lawn care, provided you take a proactive approach to lawn care by following some simple fall lawn care tips.
Trim Your Grass or Risk Mold
Mold? On your grass? It’s true—improper fall lawn maintenance can lead to a disease known as “snow mold”. The mold is allowed to produce because your grass, which has grown too long due over the fall, gets packed down from the weight of the oncoming snow. This creates the perfect environment for fungal growth, and when the snow melts next spring, your heart will sink when you find that your lawn didn’t make the winter.
Cut your grass until the first major frost of the season. Until a hard frost, your grass is going to continue to grow—it’s that simple. Grass is a hardy plant, it needs some major cold weather to stop it in its tracks. The ideal length of your grass should be about 3 inches high. Any shorter and you’re going to impact its root system, any longer and you risk the aforementioned mold problem.
Buy a Rain Gauge, Keep Your Grass Watered Until Winter
Just because fall tends to be a time of more moisture, be it in the form of rain or fog, doesn’t mean your yard is getting the hydration it needs. If you find that, in the summer, your yard requires a lot of watering then fall is no different.
It’s best to buy a rain gauge and stick it in your yard. In general, your grass requires at least an inch of rain a week. If it’s not getting that much, then bring out the hose and the sprinkler. It doesn’t matter if the mornings are full of dew and fog. Trust the gauge and supplement with water until the first snow.
Remove Fallen Foliage
Fall is a season full of beauty—the weather cools, the trees change from verdant green to gorgeous shades of yellow, orange, and red. But after the first midnight storm, we all know what to expect in the morning—a carpet of leaves adorning our once-immaculate lawns.
As much as it pains you, do not leave those leaves on your lawn. While we may love a nice, thick blanket on a winter day, your grass hates it. Dead foliage blocks vital light from the sun and traps in moisture, which grows mold and fungus instead of grass. If you want to see a lush lawn come spring, then blow away or rake those leaves so your grass can stay dry and see the sky.
Fertilize in the Fall
Think of your grass as if it were a bear. Sure, it’s going to mostly dormant through the winter. But how can it sleep if it’s starving? The truth is, winter is hard on your grass, so it needs all the help it can get. Plain old water is nice, but it’s not all your grass needs to survive the season.
In late-fall, spread a “slow-release” fertilizer over your lawn. One that is high in nitrogen, has no phosphorous, and is low in potassium. However, if you want to fine-tune the proportions, then purchase a soil tester—it will tell you exactly what your grass requires. A slow-release fertilizer will give your grass a major boost and keep it well-fed through the lean winter months. It will also aid in protecting your grass from fungal growth, which is a major concern when it is smothered in wet, insulating snow.
Aerate Your Lawn Every Few Years in the Fall
You’re generally not as concerned about the look of your lawn as fall transitions into winter. With that said, fall is the perfect time to aerate your lawn. Aeration is something you should do every 2-3 years. Aerating your lawn effectively punches holes through it, breaking up earth that has been compacted over time and loosening up surface root systems, which, if neglected, will create an almost impermeable layer that keeps water and nutrients away from the deeper roots made by grasses. If you notice a high amount of thatch, consider dethatching at this time, too.
An aerated lawn will take in fertilizer, water, and even grass seed at a much more efficient rate, giving you better results come spring.
Seed Your Lawn
Speaking of seed, it’s smart to seed your lawn in the fall when the sun isn’t as hard on your grass. Why would you seed an already-seeded lawn? This method is called “overseeding” and it’s meant to increase the density of your grass, thereby eliminating the surface area available for weeds. So, even if your lawn looks healthy, throw some seed down every fall to fill it in and make it lusher and fuller come next year.
While spreading seed by hand will work, it’s much less effective than using a seed spreader. There are many different kinds of seeding instruments available and some are harder than others on your lawn, so do your research and find the best one for your situation.
Fall is a Time for Preventative Maintenance & Proactive Measures
If you’re a homeowner, then you’ve slowly come to find that there isn’t a season of relaxation when it comes to yard maintenance. Maybe you thought that season was winter until you realized the time and energy needed to run the snowblower every morning so you can pull the cars out of the driveway. Or maybe you thought spring would bring with it a sense of calm before the summer growing season, only to realize that, once the snow melted away, how much havoc it wrecked on your landscaping.
Whatever the case may be, the season of rest certainly isn’t fall. On the contrary—fall is a time for preventing and mitigating the damage that snow and cold temperatures will do to your lawn. Most of all, it’s a time to take proactive measures so you can enjoy the beauty that spring and summer bring to your landscaping.
In either case, as a homeowner, your job is never finished. And if you’re busy, or don’t have the energy, then consider outsourcing your lawn work to a professional landscaping company. They understand the fall lawn schedule for your region and they’ll deliver the correct amount of TLC to your yard when and where it needs it. A beautiful lawn is a project, and with these fall lawn tips it’s a project you can be proud of every time you step outside.