Caring For Autumn Lawns – Lawn Care Tips For The Fall

Caring For Autumn Lawns – Lawn Care Tips For The Fall

By: Teo Spengler

Your lawn did its part, now it’s your turn. All summer long your lawn offered its welcoming green carpet for your family activities, but, come fall, it needs some help to keep looking its best. As a homeowner, you know that this is one call you have to heed. Read on for information on the care of lawns in fall.

How to Take Care of Lawns in Fall

Fall lawn care is critical to a maintaining a beautiful front yard. You’ll need to change the cultural care you offered your grass in summer to fit the new season and the lawn’s needs. Here are some lawn care tips for the fall:

  • Watering – When you are caring for autumn lawns, watch your irrigation. With the dry, hot summer behind you, your lawn needs less to drink. While reducing irrigation is an essential part of caring for autumn lawns, don’t stop watering abruptly. You need to keep minimal irrigation going all winter long unless your area gets at least one inch of precipitation a week.
  • Mowing – Keep mowing! You thought you could stop mowing the grass when the kids returned to school? Think again. You need to keep mowing as long as the lawn is growing. For the final, before-winter mow, cut cool-season grasses to 2½ inches and warm-season grasses between 1½ and 2 inches. This is an important part of lawn maintenance in autumn.
  • Mulching leaves – Care of lawns in fall requires you to get out the garden tools. Those tree leaves that have fallen on your grass may be thick enough to smother it, but raking and burning isn’t necessary. To take care of lawns in fall, use a mulching mower to shred the leaves into small pieces. Leave these in place to protect and nourish your lawn through winter.
  • Fertilizing – Fall lawn care includes feeding your lawn if you have cool-season grass. Warm-season grasses should not get fed until spring. Be sure to use a slow-release granular fertilizer. Put on garden gloves, then sprinkle the correct amount evenly over your lawn. Water the area well unless rain arrives within a few days.
  • Seeding – If your cool-season grass is looking bare or bald in spots, you can reseed it as part of lawn maintenance in autumn, since the ground is usually warm enough to germinate grass seeds. Sprinkle the appropriate type of lawn seeds on those spots that need help. Use seeds at about half the recommended rate for new lawns. Replenish warm-season lawns in springtime, not as part care of lawns in fall.

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Tackle moss and thatch

  • Start off by controlling moss, which is often found in patches under trees or hedges. Treat by spreading a mosskiller across the lawn and within two weeks the weed will have died and turned black.
  • To prevent it from thriving in the future, it makes sense to tackle its cause. Either remove branches or lower hedges that cast shade or improve drainage.

  • Remove the dead moss by vigorously raking the surface with a spring-tined lawn rake. At the same time you'll remove masses of old grass clippings and other debris that can build up on the surface of the lawn, forming a layer called thatch.
  • This can hinder drainage and encourages weeds and turf diseases. Throw the material into a wheelbarrow and put on your compost heap when finished. If you have a large garden, it's possible to hire an electric raking machine.

Improve drainage

  • Areas of the lawn that get heavy traffic, such as play areas often become very compacted which can cause problems with drainage, weeds and moss. Improve by pushing a garden fork into the ground as far as you can, then wiggle it backwards and forwards to make air channels. Repeat this every 10cm (4in) across the lawn.

  • Brush a sandy top dressing across the surface of the lawn so that it fills the holes, allowing air and water into the lawn - ready mixed bags can be bought from garden centres.
  • On larger lawns you could hire a powered aerating machine or if your lawn is very heavy, use a hollow tining tool that removes plugs of grass, which can be filled with top dressing. Both hand held and powered versions are available to buy from garden centres or to hire.


Fall Lawn Care Tips

1. Remove the leaves.

A carpet of colorful autumn leaves may look nice and be fun to play in, but they're no good for grass. They block the light and trap moisture, potentially fatal knockout punches for the unlucky turf underneath. So when the leaves are falling, blow or rake them away as often as you can. Even after the trees are bare, continue raking out the corners where the wind piles leaves up. If you don't, come spring, the grass under that soggy, decaying mat will be dead.

2. Keep cutting, but to the correct height.

Don't put that mower away yet. Grass continues to grown up to the first hard frost, and so will need regular cuts to keep it at an ideal 2½- to 3-inch height. If you let it get too long, it will mat and be vulnerable to fungi like snow mold.

Cutting grass too short is just as bad, because it curtails the root system—root depth is proportional to cutting height—and impedes the lawn's ability to withstand winter cold and dryness. Regular mowing also gets rid of those pesky leaves, chopping them up and leaving behind a soil-enhancing mulch.

3. Continue watering.

Frith says that people tend to let up on watering in the fall as the weather gets cooler. "They figure that nature will take care of things for them," he says. While it's true that there's more rain, more dew, and less evaporation at this time of year, that may not be enough to keep the grass roots well hydrated and healthy going into the winter.

If your lawn isn't getting at least an inch of water a week—a simple rain gauge is a useful way to keep track—then keep the sprinklers or irrigation system running until the end of October. By that time, you'll want to disconnect hoses and flush the irrigation system to avoid frozen pipes and spigots.

4. Loosen the soil.

Regular aeration—once every couple of years, according to Frith—prevents soil from becoming compacted and covered with thatch, a thick layer of roots, stems, and debris that blocks water, oxygen, and nutrients from reaching the soil.

A core aerator corrects both problems by punching holes through that thatch and pulling up plugs of soil. "It's a good idea to aerate a lawn right before fertilizing," Frith says. "All those holes in your turf will let the fertilizer reach right to the roots, where it can do the most good."

5. Add fertilizer.

Just as grass roots need water to last the winter, they also benefit from a shot of the plant sugars that protect roots from freezing and give the entire plant the energy to bounce back in the spring. Those sugars are produced by chlorophyll, which grass produces in abundance when there's enough nitrogen.

That's why Frith recommends a late-fall application of a slow-release granular 24-0-10 fertilizer. The numbers indicate the percentage by weight of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, respectively. Potassium is also important at this time because it aids in root growth, disease protection, drought tolerance, and cold resistance. (A soil test can tell you how much of each nutrient your lawn actually needs.)

Frith cautions against spreading fertilizer close to waterways, however they are vulnerable to contamination from runoff. Lawn Doctor's company policy is to maintain a 5-foot buffer wherever water is present.

6. Spread seed.

"A dense lawn also is good protection against weeds," Frith says, which is why it's important to overseed existing turf. Not only does that fill in thin spots or bare patches, it allows you to introduce the latest in resilient, drought-tolerant grasses. Fall is the best time to overseed because the ground is still warm, moisture is more plentiful, nights are cool, and the sun is not as hot during the day. But even then, "overseeding is one of the most challenging lawn-care chores," Frith says.

You can't simply broadcast seeds over an established lawn and expect them to take hold. They need to be in full contact with the soil, kept moist until they germinate, and be well enough established before it gets too cold. Renting a slit seeder is a better option than broadcasting, but those machines are notorious for tearing up turf and leaving your lawn looking like a harrowed field.

Frith says that Lawn Doctor's proprietary Turf Tamer power seeder, which sows seeds by injecting them into the soil, is a less-damaging option.

7. Stay on schedule.

Each of the steps above has to be done at the right time for best results. Otherwise, it's wasted effort. For instance, overseed too late and the seedlings will be too tender to survive. Fertilize too early and the grass will send up tender blades that will get hammered by the cold. Fertilize too late and the grass roots won't be able to absorb all those nutrients you're feeding them. Thinking about aerating in the spring because you can't get around to it this fall? Don't bother. Spring aeration just makes it easier for weed seeds to get established.

If sticking to the schedule during the fall is proving too difficult, a lawn care service can handle the jobs that aren't getting done. Most often, those are the ones that require renting heavy machinery like core aerators and slit seeders, which are hard to transport, a bear to operate, and often in short supply at the rental yards at this time of year. Delegating one or two of those chores to a pro during this busy season will ensure the work gets done when it should—and that you will be enjoying a thick carpet of green grass next year.


Prepare the Garden Soil

Depending on the weather and region, there are often fruit and veggies still thriving in your garden into October and November. Don’t dig it up prematurely, but after the first frost or once your garden is no longer fruitful, go ahead and remove all of the plants and lingering weeds. Use a rototiller to loosen the soil for next year, or better yet, the YARD BOSS by STIHL is one of several products that's awesome in the garden and the yard, allowing you to multi-task outdoors like a pro.

If you garden in raised planter boxes, solarizing the bed will help fight fungus and other diseases that may affect next year’s plantings. Learn more about solarization in this video.

Take garden soil preparation a step further by having it tested to measure its pH. It’ll help you better understand if you need to add nutrients in the fall to fortify for next year’s crop.


4 Fall Lawn Care Tips for Dallas, TX Homeowners

After the hot Dallas summers, the cool brisk weather is more than welcome as fall is finally upon us. Along with pulling out fall decorations and apparel, comes the transitional period to take care of your homes outdoor space. There are a few things to do to make sure that you and your home are ready for cooler temperatures. Whether you are a new or a seasoned homeowner, refreshing on fall lawn care tips never hurts!

Here are a few tips to help you prepare your lawn for a seasonal transition in Dallas.

Regardless of the season, a rule of thumb when it comes to mowing is to never cut more than one-third of the height. Cutting your lawn too short can make it susceptible to diseases. Continue mowing even after summer to keep the lawn healthy. When the majority of the growth has stopped you won’t have to mow as often as you would in the summer months.

Mulch the grass as you mow the lawn. The grass clippings act as an organic fertilizer by applying the required nutrients to your grass while they decompose. In the fall, fertilizing your lawn will help protect it and keep it healthy when the cool weather rolls in. Before fertilizing your grass on your own, make sure you know what type of grass you have in order to choose the correct fertilizer. This should be a granulated fertilizer that is applied to the lawn using a manual spreader.

Weeds are a constant problem and hassle to keep them away from your garden and lawn. Fall is one of the best times to treat for weeds allowing you enough time to completely discard of all the weeds before growth begins in the spring. When pulling weeds, it is important to grab the root in its entirety. Snipping the roots at ground level won’t remove it and it will be able to grow back.

During the summertime, it’s safe to say that your lawn gets a lot of traffic. With heavy traffic comes compact, when the soil is compacted it can’t retrieve the vital nutrients needed to sustain healthy grass. Aerating your lawn breaks up the soil and allows it to “breathe.” If you aren’t familiar with core aeration, using a designated aerator pulls up plugs of dirt exposing the grass’ roots to necessary oxygen and nutrients.

Fall lawn care may not seem like it’s that important, but in order to maintain a lush lawn in Dallas–it’s crucial to practice proper lawn care maintenance year round.

Have questions about lawn care? Visit our Dallas lawn care page for more information.


Fall Tasks for Warm-Season Lawns

Cool fall temperatures signal warm-season grasses that their peak time has passed. These grasses, such as bermudagrass, centipede grass, zoysia grass and bahiagrass, experience their most active growth in summer and enter dormancy with fall's killing frost. Because they're slowing down in fall, warm-season grasses need different care from their cool-season counterparts. The following fall tasks keep warm-season lawns on track:

  • Test your soil. Fall soil testing benefits lawns, regardless of your grass type. Put test results to use by following recommendations for corrections, and you'll be ahead of the game in spring.
  • Stop fertilizing. Time your last lawn feeding for six to eight weeks before your first fall frost. 1 For Bermudagrass, four to five weeks before the frost date is fine. Fertilizing any later can interfere with the natural progression of dormancy and leave your lawn vulnerable in winter.
  • Overseed for winter color. Circumvent a brown, dormant lawn by overseeding with a cool-season grass, such as a Pennington perennial ryegrass, that stays green during winter months. Wait until night temperatures drop and warm-season grass starts losing color. Hold off on overseeding just for thinning do that in spring when active growth returns.
  • Skip dethatching and aerating. Dethatching and aerating can help strengthen and improve lawns, but they can be hard on grasses. Save these tasks for spring and early summer, when your warm-season lawn is actively growing and can bounce back fast.
  • Let rainfall take over. Continue watering as long as your lawn is growing, then let nature take over. If you overseed for winter color, continue a regular watering schedule.
  • Hit weeds hard. Bright green, cool-season weeds are easy targets in dormant warm-season lawns. 4& Spot treat lawn weeds with a post-emergent herbicide meant for existing, actively-growing weeds. IMAGE All-in-One Weed Killer handles a broad range of difficult weeds and helps keep your lawn pristine.
  • Manage leaves. Keep lawn grasses free of fallen leaves. Mulch small quantities and leave them lie, but remove heavy accumulations so grasses can breathe.

Fall lawn care isn't a one-size-fits-all endeavor, but the lawn of your dreams is within your reach. Take time now to check off your fall tasks, and take pride in a strong season finish.

Image and UltraGreen are registered trademarks of Central Garden & Pet Company. Pennington and One Step Complete are trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc. Fast Acting is a trademark of Endcap, LLC.

1. Michael Goatley Jr., Shawn Askew and David McCall, “Fall Lawn Care," Virginia Cooperative Extension.

2. Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance “Simple Tips," October 2014.

4. Zac Reicher, Cale Bigelow, Aaron Patton and Tom Voigt, “Control of Broadleaf Weeds in Home Lawns,"Turfgrass Science, September 2006.


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