Trott column: Time to prepare lawn for winter

ALEXANDRIA — Summer is quickly coming to a close: The days are getting shorter, the nights cooler, and the first maple leaves are beginning to turn red. Soon the red-winged blackbirds will set course for their southern destinations, and the snow will begin to fly. Ahh, the joys of living in Minnesota!

Labor Day is a milepost in the lawn care calendar: It is time to get your lawn ready for the coming winter months.

If you have been fighting that un-ending battle with grubs, or you have some dead or thinning spots in your lawn from excessive wear or dog spots, now is the time to re-seed. New grass seed needs time to germinate and grow before frost pushes it into dormancy. This generally requires 4 to 6 weeks, which is about all we have left in our gardening calendar.

For renovating thinning lawns, aerate first, and then spread seed over the thinning area. To repair dead spots, rough up the soil with a garden rake, and spread seed over the area. Apply mulch over the newly seeded area and water, keeping the seed moist for two weeks. At this point you should see some green blades of grass, and you can back off on the watering to every other day. As the grass continues to grow, reduce the watering to twice a week.

The beginning of September is also an excellent time to spread fertilizer. Applying nitrogen at this time of year helps the plant to maintain active growth during the fall months, and will give your lawn a green kick-start next spring.


Don’t forget to keep watering through September and October. Periodic watering during the fall helps to sustain active growth, and allows grass plants to make and store the food that will help them survive the winter and resume healthy growth in the spring.

Keep mowing your grass at heights between 2.5 and 3 inches. This high mower height encourages food production for the grass plant, and creates a more robust root system that efficiently takes advantage of the available water and nutrients in the soil. Gradually reduce the mowing heights to about 2-2.5 inches for the last few cuttings of the year. This can help reduce the possibility of snow mold in the spring, and will make it easier to rake leaves later in the fall.

The month of September is an excellent time to control broadleaf perennial weeds such as dandelion, creeping Charlie and thistle. There are many different broadleaf weed control products available for home use. Always make sure to follow the product’s label directions exactly as printed on the container. Remember, it is a violation of federal law to handle or use any weed killer inconsistent with its label directions.

For more information about fall lawn care, visit our website at .

Until next time, happy gardening!


There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been! ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Robin Trott is a horticulture educator with University of Minnesota Extension. Contact her at 320-762-3890, or at trot0053@umn.

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