Now’s the time to mow those final mows, seed, aerate, etc. to ensure a healthy lawn come spring. We’re no lawn experts ourselves, but we’ve done our research and found the experts’ 7 most advised steps to keeping your yard fed and protected during the colder months and beautiful for the warmer ones.
1. REMOVE THE LEAVES
They’re starting to fall, people, and autumn leaves may look colorful and gorgeous as they cover your lawn, and they’re certainly fun to play in, but they block sunlight and trap moisture which could kill the grass underneath. So, be sure to rake or blow them away as often as you can. Most important are the corners of your yard where leaves really pile up due to wind. If you don’t remove them, the grass under those soggy leaves will be dead come spring.
2. KEEP CUTTING, BUT A LITTLE SHORTER
According to Scott Firth, CEO of Lawn Doctor, it’s not time to put away the mower yet. He says that grass continues to grow up to the first hard frost, and will need regular cuts to keep it at an ideal 2½- to 3-inch height. If it gets too long, it will be vulnerable to fungi. On the other hand, it’s you cut it too short it will affect the root system and hinder the lawn’s ability to withstand the winter cold and dryness. Also, he says that regular mowing gets rid of those annoying leaves, chopping them up and leaving behind a soil-enhancing mulch.
3. AERATE REGULARLY
According to lawn experts, aerating once every couple of years prevents soil from compacting and being covered with debris that blocks water, oxygen, and important nutrients it needs. Using a core aerator fixes these issues by punching holes through the debris and pulling plugs of soil. Doing this before fertilizing is the best time so that the holes in the lawn will let the fertilizer reach the roots, says Firth.
4. SEED YOUR LAWN
Overseeding your turf in the fall will fill in the bare spots and produce a dense lawn for protection against weeds. Fall is the best time for this because the ground is still warm, there’s plenty of moisture, the nights are cooler, and the sun isn’t as hot during the day. The key to this lawn chore is to make sure the seed is in full contact with the soil, watered regularly until they germinate, and be well established before the cold sets in.
5. CONTINUE WATERING
Just because the weather is cooler, doesn’t mean you should stop watering your grass. Nature isn’t necessarily taking care of it for you (even though we’ve had a record year for rain around RVA). Experts at Scott’s say that the rain and dew may not be enough to keep the roots well hydrated and healthy going into winter. An inch a week is the recommended amount of water, and they say a rain gauge is the easiest way to keep track. If you have an irrigation system, it’s even easier and can be kept going until the end of October.
6. GET RID OF PERENNIAL WEEDS
Dandelions, clover, and other broadleaf weeds are easy to spot in spring, but autumn is the best time to rid your yard of these eyesores. Sprays work best on days with moderate temperatures and when the soil is moist.
7. STAY ON SCHEDULE
Each of the steps above has to be done at the right time for best results. For instance, overseed too late or the seedlings will be too tender to survive. Thinking about aerating in the spring because you can’t get around to it this fall? Avoid it. Spring aeration just makes it easier for weed seeds to get established.
If sticking to the schedule during the fall is proving too difficult, hire a lawn care service to take the job off your busy hands. They will ensure the projects get done on the right schedule.
Whether you handle the work yourself or hire it out, taking care of your lawn in the fall will ensure a yard full of fresh, healthy, green grass next year that your neighbors will envy.