Fall is the perfect time to get your lawn prepped for spring, and now is the time to do it! Most homeowners ignore their lawns in the fall but the cooler weather is fantastic for your grass. During this time of year, your lawn is actively storing water, nutrients and generating energy so that it can make it through a long winter. If you take care of it now, you’ll have a healthier, lusher looking patch of green in the spring!
Now is the time to lower the blade on your mower. I keep mine between 3 and 3.5”s during the warmer months. In the fall, it is time to drop it down to 2”s to allow more sunlight to get to the crown of the grass. There are a couple of things to remember; never cut off more than 1/3 of the blade length at a time. This is really hard on the grass. You can lower then mower once by a third, and then again by a third in the second cutting. If you have a bagging option, now is a good time to put it on. Removing some of the cuts blades will help your lawn can more oxygen down to the roots as better airflow can occur without the build-up of cuttings (called thatch).
Aerating in the fall is also a great solution for getting oxygen, moisture, and nutrients the roots. The best aerators remove plugs of soil that are 3”s long. This is the perfect depth to reach the roots below the ground.
Feeding the lawn in the fall is actually more important in my mind than doing it in the spring. The fall fertilizer helps the roots grow below the soil, encouraging an earlier and deeper flush of green grass once the snow melts. Look for fertilizers like a 0-6-6 combination. Make sure to avoid a fertilizer with a high first number as this encourages more leaf growth above ground. Instead, get a high middle and last number. This promotes root growth and improves the overall health of your lawn.
I wait until early October for my last fertilizing of the year.
I like to top-dress the bald spots on my lawn at the end of September. The occasional rainfall and the cooler temps are perfect for seed starting. When buying your grass seed mix, also get a bag of topsoil. By blending the two BEFORE you spread the mix on the lawn, you get a higher rate of germination of the seeds because you’ve ensured the “seed-to-soil” contact that they need to grow.
Weeds are also getting ready to go through the winter months. This makes them extra susceptible to herbicides and natural treatments as they are in full “absorption-mode”. Just be careful and follow the instructions on whatever weed solution you decide to go with and wait until the end of Oct to apply. This is extra important in the areas that you’ve planted new seeds so that they have a chance to get better established. Finally, rake those leaves! Getting the leaves off the lawn before they become a wet mat that smothers your lawn is so important. Try these steps and you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood with the greenest and happiest lawn on the block!