Fall Lawn Care: Saving your stressed out lawn
By the end of August, most lawns are showing signs of wear. Once green and lush landscapes become limp, lifeless and dotted with brown patches. The good news is that grass is more resilient than most think and the fall is an ideal time to restore its vigor. During the autumn months, the grass is coming out of its dormancy and returning to an active growth cycle. By giving it a little TLC now, you’ll be on your way to a beautiful lawn come spring.
Water – Many people think the fall is the time to stop watering since the days are milder, but watering is key to helping it recover from the stress of summer. Keeping the lawn hydrated will also allow it to store up nutrients for the long winter. Continue to water early in the morning two to three times per week until the first frost. Watering for a longer duration, but less frequently will encourage deep root growth.
Aerate – Soil needs to breathe in order to grow. Compacted soil prevents air, water and nutrients from circulating within it. By penetrating the soil with small holes, you are increasing circulation and stimulating root growth. It’s important to make sure the lawn is moist when aerating, so either plan it for the day after a rainfall or water it prior. After aerating is an ideal time to overseed thin spots.
Seed – Fall is the best time to seed your lawn. This can be done 2 different ways: by overseeding the lawn after it’s been aerated (seed will land in the newly created holes and germinate) this process uses the least amount of seed 2-4 lbs/1000 square feet; or by mixing seed and soil together (this is the best way to repair thin/bare areas of the lawn), it uses more seed 4-6 lbs/1000 square feet (depending on the type of seed used).
Fertilize – With the roots in an active growth cycle, the fall is the ideal time for fertilizing. Ideally, two fertilizer applications are best for fall lawns. The early treatment should be applied between late August and September to help the lawn recover from extensive summer use and heat damage. A slow-release fertilizer is best at this time, and will nourish the lawn for several weeks. The later fall fertilization is best applied in late October or early November, and should be a quick release formula to give the lawn a healthy blast of nutrition before the roots are entirely dormant. If the lawn was seeded in the fall a starter fertilizer applied at the time of seeding or soon after will help promote the new grass.
Lime – Most soils in our area are acidic. Overly acidic soils are often the cause of a poor-looking lawn or stifle the growth of grass. People may mistake these soil conditions as a fertilizer problem, instead of realizing their soil needs lime. The amount of lime needed should always be determined by a soil test. Generally, lime is applied, in the Fall, to lawns at a rate of about 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Don’t apply lime near plants that need acidic soil, such as azaleas or rhododendrons.
Clean-Up – Don’t let leaves and debris cover the lawn and suffocate it after all of the work you’ve now done. By raking consistently, the soil can get the air and sunlight it needs for growth. Avoid allowing leaves and debris to get stuck under the snow cover for the winter, which can lead to disease and mold growth. Make sure to cut the grass short for the last mowing, this will also help reduce snow mold.
A little effort in the fall will pay big dividends next spring!