Fall signals a time of change. From the color of the leaves to your lawn care practices, it is the perfect time to make some adjustments to your routine! With cold, winter weather on the horizon, fall lawn care is important to ensure you get your cool-season grass in the best shape possible to withstand the period of dormancy and frost. This is also a great time to lay the groundwork for spring.
With all of the fun festivities that happen during the fall season, it can be easy to allow your lawn care routine to slip through the cracks. Before you know it, it’s late fall and you feel overwhelmed with the number of things to do before winter. Don’t fret! We’ve got you covered with essential lawn care practices that will have your lawn in great shape and you back to picking pumpkins in no time!
Here are eight easy tips to get your lawn in great shape this fall season:
1. Time to Overseed
If you have any bare or thin spots in your lawn, fall is the perfect time to overseed! Fall is considered the best season for seeding cool-season lawns, as the mixture of colder air temperatures and warmer soil temperatures make it an ideal time to plant grass seed.
To fill in bare spots in your lawn, begin by putting your mower on the lowest setting and mowing the area you want to seed. Be sure to bag clippings afterward. After mowing, rake the area with a metal rake to remove any dead grass and to ensure your seeds get good seed-to-soil contact. Next, spread the seed. For larger areas, spread seed with a rotary spreader, and for smaller bare spots use your hands. Apply seed when soil temperatures are between 55°F and 65ºF. Remember that you should wait until your new grass reaches a height of about four inches before mowing.
While Jonathan Green grass seed blends in well with existing cool-season lawns, your lawn may look a little different at first if you’ve used a different type of seed. A good way to ensure the grass blends in seamlessly is to put some additional seed surrounding the area of the bare spot you want to fill. It is also best to just give your lawn time, as it will most likely blend and look more uniform with proper overseeding practices and patience.
2. Aerate Soil
Your soil’s health directly affects the health of the rest of your lawn. If you notice any areas of bare dirt or water pooling in the lawn areas of your lawn, it might be in need of some attention. Instead of looking toward a quick fix, it might be better to look at what’s going on underneath the surface.
Before diving into any other fall lawn care practices, test your soil for compaction. If it appears to be compacted, aeration can help to loosen your soil, making it easier for air, water, and necessary nutrients to travel to your lawn’s root system. Make sure you aerate before you apply fertilizer to ensure the nutrients will be absorbed by the grass plant instead of running off into our water system.
You can rent a core aerator from most garden centers. If you’re looking for an alternative to heavy and unwieldy aerators, you can use Love Your Soil® which aids in loosening compacted soil and increasing necessary airflow to your lawn’s root system.
Thatch on your lawn can turn into an overwhelming problem if left alone to build up over time. Thatch is classified as a layer of organic matter consisting of stems, grassroots, and leaves. A large buildup of thatch is most commonly caused by having unhealthy or imbalanced soil.
If you find you have excess thatch in your lawn, remove it using a metal rake or a dethatcher to ensure it won’t encourage snow mold or weeds in the spring.
Love Your Soil® stimulates microbial activity. Soil microbes eat thatch, which is another benefit of this product.
4. Fertilize Your Lawn
Making sure your lawn is fed is important for every season, but especially during fall! Fertilizing your lawn during this time is important to ensure your lawn is supplied with key nutrients to withstand the brutal winter months ahead.
Opt for a fertilizer with potassium, which is an ingredient that is essential for optimal grass health and proper growth. Potassium, the K in the NPK ratio found on the front of fertilizer bags, is key for your lawn, as it aids in building a stronger cell wall and root system which ultimately helps your lawn endure times of stress and harsh weather conditions.
5. Lower Mower Height
Even though the temperatures are beginning to drop, fall is still a good time to keep up with your lawn mowing schedule. Mowing your lawn during the fall helps to ensure your grass doesn’t grow too long, which creates a breeding ground for snow mold in the winter.
When mowing during the fall season, continue to maintain a normal schedule until right before the first frost. Individual timelines may vary, so it’s best to research when your local area will experience its first fall frost. You want to get your last mow of the season in before this occurs.
For your last mow, your mowing height should be set to two inches. Be mindful not to cut the grass too short or when your lawn is wet, as this can harm the root system and potentially kill your grass.
6. Remove or Mulch Leaves
While fall leaves may look pretty and picturesque on your lawn, they can actually be harmful to your grass. Once leaves fall and begin to pile up on your grass, they can block necessary sunlight for seedlings to grow properly. If the lawn is damp, wet leaves can encourage fungus and kill healthy grass underneath.
You can safely remove leaves from your lawn by using one of two tools: a leaf blower or a rake. Using a leaf blower to remove leaves from your lawn will help you avoid stepping on the new seedlings. If you choose to rake, carefully glide the rake over the leaves when the soil is dry to remove them from the lawn.
Mulching in the leaves is another great option to handle fall leaves. This is a way to help utilize the leaves as nutrient-rich, organic matter for your soil and lawn. If you have too many leaves to mulch into your lawn, we recommend collecting the extra leaves and adding them to your compost pile.
7. Fix Lawn Issues
Even the healthiest lawns run into issues every now and then. Check your lawn now for any lawn infestations, such as insects, weeds, or diseases. If you find you’re experiencing any of these problems, fall is the best time to tackle them! You don’t want an issue to have time to manifest into a larger problem over the winter dormancy period and be discovered in its later stages in the spring.
8. Prepare for Upcoming Seasons
The most important tip for fall lawn care is to use this time to prepare for the upcoming seasons. The time between early September to early November is critical to ensure you set your lawn up for success for the rest of the year.
Always remember that preparation is key! If you do these three things, you’ll be ready when spring arrives:
Sharpen mower blades & clean the mower
After your last mow of the season in November, give your mower a pick-me-up now so it can be ready for the first mow of the spring. Sharpen your mower blades to prevent rust and guarantee smooth, clean mowing when it’s time again. Clean the mower from any dirt and debris to prevent potential long-term damage.
Stock up on snow melter
Once the snow starts falling in the winter, it may be harder to find snow melter in your area, as it will be high in demand and start to sell out quickly. Stock up now on snow melter that quickly melts snow and ice, yet is gentle for your grass.
Stow and organize your lawn supplies
Now is a great time to take the time to organize all of your lawn supplies so they’ll be ready to use once you pull them out again in the spring. Stow them away in a dry place in your garage or shed when you’re done.
Fall lawn care is integral in laying the groundwork for a healthy lawn that can resist the stress of winter weather. If you take the proper time and care for your lawn now, your workload will be less strenuous in the future. Taking care of your lawn, especially in the fall, is ultimately a rewarding and fulfilling experience that will produce lasting results.
Whether you’re using this time to seed, fix lawn problems, or prep for the seasons ahead, the work you put in during this time will benefit your grass in the long run. We hope these tips make your fall lawn care super easy!
For more fall lawn care tips, check out our October Lawn Guide.