Fall Lawn Care Tips to Help Your Yard Survive Winter
Fall is at our doorsteps and after all the work you put into your lawn during the spring and through the summer months, the last thing you want to think about is more yard work. However, fall offers optimal conditions, increasing precipitation and cooler temperatures, for lawn maintenance. Fall lawn care is the best way to ensure all that work spent from spring until now holds through winter and into your next year's lawn.
Fall lawn care is critical because grass is increasing its growth in late August and September to prepare for winter. This means watering, fertilizing and aerating are key for preparing your lawn for its dormant season. Follow these five fall lawn care tips so that you can start spring ahead of the game with a healthy, lush yard.
Continue Your Lawn Maintenance
Lawn maintenance activities like watering and mowing should continue until winter hits. Even though the hot summer weather has past, you want to keep watering your yard through fall. Grass is rapidly growing and storing nutrients to prepare for fall and water is a critical component to this cycle. Hydrate your lawn with about an inch of water per week and if you are not getting that from nature then you need to keep the sprinklers running. Once temperatures move towards the freezing mark in the evenings, disconnect all your hoses and flush watering systems for winter storage.
Grass will continue to grow up until the first hard frost so mowing will need to continue as well. Move your mower decks down in the fall to cut between 2- and 3-inches high. Grass cut too long can be susceptible to snow mold but grass cut any shorter than 2-inches can damage the roots, which leave dead spots come spring. Regular mowing as part of your fall lawn care also adds soil-enhancing nutrients from grass clippings and chopped up leaves.
Aerate the Soil
With grass seeking more water and nutrients in preparation for winter, now is a good time to aerate your lawn. Fall lawn care that includes aeration prevents soil compaction and reduces thatch, a thick layer of dead grass and debris, that can prevent water and nutrients from reaching the soil. If you have a small yard, aeration can be done with a small self-propelled machine. For larger lawns or if you do not have the time to do it yourself, a local landscape professional can help you out.
Remove the Leaves
Unlike in spring lawn care, fall means you have to deal with leaves. Sure, some mulching of leaves in your yard is beneficial but large amounts can mat together and suffocate your grass. Rake leaves or use a leaf vacuum to remove leaves as soon as possible after they fall. The quicker you pick them up the less time they can have a negative impact on your lawn.
Fall Weed and Feed
The best fall lawn care tip is to fertilize. The blades of grass slowly start to decrease growth each day closer to winter but the roots are rapidly growing during this time. They need water and more importantly nitrogen and other nutrients to build an amble reserve to over winter and return healthy next spring. Use a slow release fall lawn fertilizer with a good amount of nitrogen and potassium, something like a 24-0-10 will work well. A fall lawn fertilizer with weed control built in is ideal because fall brings with it a new crop of cool season weeds. If you do not kill these off, many will deposit seeds and next spring will require even more weed control.
Reseed Bare Spots
Filling in bare spots as part of your fall lawn care schedule will help with weed control and provide for a thicker lawn next spring. Do not wait too long for fall lawn seeding. You want to make sure there is plenty of growing time for new grass to become established before the first killing frost. Bare spots left bare until next spring are much harder to revive later then they are now.
Fall lawn care is an important part of complete lawn care and maintenance. Plan out the five fall lawn care tips above because otherwise it is a wasted effort. For example, reseeding bare spots to late and the new grass will not make it through winter. In addition, fertilize your lawn in the fall too early and the grass will explode in top growth and the roots will get little benefit from it. Putting it all together, however, will give you a healthy lawn come spring.