Tips for maintaining a healthy lawnThe Professional Landcare Network reminds consumers that fall is an important time of year to care for your lawn and provides the following lawn care tips. For more information specific to your local area, you should consult with your local lawn care professional or county cooperative extension agent.
The Professional Landcare Network reminds consumers that fall is an important time of year to care for your lawn and provides the following lawn care tips. For more information specific to your local area, you should consult with your local lawn care professional or county cooperative extension agent.
Mowing your lawn
It’s important to keep your grass 2 to 2-1/2 inches tall throughout the fall. If your grass gets much taller (more than 3 inches) it will mat, and this could lead to winter lawn disease problems such as snow mold. If you cut it shorter than 2 inches, you’ll severely limit its ability to make and store food for growth in the spring.
Lawn raking in the fall removes excess organic debris and can help maintain water quality. In winter, freezing and thawing can cause leaves, dead grass plants, and other organic debris to release soluble forms of phosphate (and nitrates). If these chemicals run off frozen ground during spring snow melt and early spring rains, they can end up in surface water.
Keep grass clippings, leaf litter, and other organic debris off driveways, sidewalks, and streets.
There are several options when it comes to disposing of fallen leaves. The preferred way is to compost them, because composting keeps leaves out of streets and storm sewers. You can also use fallen leaves, whole or chipped by a power mower, as winter mulch around rose bushes and landscape plants. Make several passes over fallen leaves on your lawn with a power mower, chopping them into a thin layer fine enough to stay on the lawn without causing damage while providing nutrients for the grass. Another option would be to bag leaves for disposal by municipal authorities.
Watering your lawn
Even though temperatures might be cooler than in summer, your lawn still needs water. Cool fall temperatures reduce the need to water, but if it doesn’t rain, your lawn will need supplemental watering since lawn grasses continue to grow throughout the fall. Go ahead and water if needed until the ground is cold and beginning to freeze. If you have an automatic irrigation system, avoid damage by having it blown out with compressed air before the water freezes in the pipes and sprinkler heads.
Fertilizing your northern lawn
Apply a final application of fertilizer between now and early December. You’ll provide your grass with nutrients that will be absorbed and stored until needed for spring growth. This final feeding should be done before the soil is frozen while your lawn is still green. Lawns that have received late-season fertilizing are often the first to begin growing in the spring.
Tom Mauer, Landscape Industry Certified, owner of Weed Man – Springfield, Massachusetts says, “Fall is the best time for the rejuvenation of turf because fertilization helps to build a stronger root system and increases winter hardiness.”
Fertilizing your Southern lawn
Southern lawn grasses need a different fertilization schedule. They should’ve been fertilized in September, and in the deep South in October, with a fertilizer with both nitrogen and potassium. Most of these lawns will go totally dormant and remain brown all winter before greening up in early spring. Late fall fertilization of these grasses will favor the growth of winter weeds. “Winterizing” types of fertilizers should contain nitrogen, but need not contain phosphate unless a soil test indicates a shortage of phosphate.
Broadleaf weed control
Fall is a good time to control perennial broadleaf weeds such as dandelions, plantain, clover, and creeping charlie. Limited numbers of weeds can be removed by hand. If your weeds are few and scattered — or confined to a few small areas — spot-treating them with a weed control product is usually sufficient. Weed-control products sold in ready-to-use spray containers make spot treatment easy. Be sure to complete treatments when temperatures are above 50 degrees — your control efforts need time to work before winter cold sets in.
Since Southern lawns will be dormant all winter, you might choose to apply a pre-emergent weed control to help prevent winter annual weeds from taking over your lawn while it is not growing. Pre-emergent products control weeds as their seeds sprout, so they must be applied before the weeds are a problem.
Don’t choose your weed-control strategy without a careful evaluation of the number and types of weeds in your lawn. Remember, you don’t need to apply herbicides over your entire lawn, unless there’s extensive weed infestation. And don’t worry about controlling crabgrass — that’s done more effectively in the spring. The first hard frost will kill annual weedy grasses.
Seeding and sodding your lawn
Fall is the best time of year to establish or repair lawns by seeding or sodding. Seeding should’ve been completed by mid-September. Cool temperatures usually make fall seeding or sodding successful. Be sure to complete your sodding before very cold weather sets in.
For more information, or to find a lawn and landscape professional, log on to LandcareNetwork.org/findaprofessional