Fall Care for a Healthy Spring Lawn
I thought it may be good to talk about a few simple things that you can do this fall to give the lawn a huge boost for spring. Most of these you already know, but I’ll tell you a few things I do to my place to keep things healthy. The first is everyone’s favorite…remove the leaves! I’ve heard some think it’s ok to just let the leaves lie where they fall because it protects the lawn over the winter. Umm….no. This is a rumor started by guys who feel they cannot miss any minutes of the football game. Nice try, but get those leaves outta there, or you will have a mucky, decaying mess with struggling or dead turf underneath.
Next thing to remember….the grass keeps on growing till the first hard frost, so be sure and keep mowing it on a regular schedule. If it gets too long, it will mat under the snow and be vulnerable to fungi such as snow mold. Since the depth of the roots is similar to grass (cutting) height, cutting the grass too short can really stress out the root system. I keep mine 2 ½ to 3” and PLEASE take the time to keep the mower blades sharp! There is a big difference between cutting the grass clean with a sharp blade versus tearing the grass with a dull one. If grass could talk….it would thank you for the clean shave.
Aerating loosens up compacted soil and is a great way to be able to introduce fertilizers more effectively to your lawn. It creates some little holes that allow the ground to stretch out a bit and breathe better. Fall is the ideal time to aerate, even though I see a lot of aerators get rented in the spring. The only problem I see with spring aeration is that spring weed seeds can get in much easier.
Keep watering! It’s easy to feel the cooler weather and let up on watering. It’s true there’s generally more precipitation in the fall, but if the lawn isn’t getting about an inch of water per week with rain, then make it up with irrigation. Healthy, hydrated roots going into the dormant stage is very important for spring health.
Last but not least, FOOD. A good fertilizer is key to feeding the lawn just before dormancy, and there are lots of different options. A slow-release granular 24-0-10 fertilizer is a good mix. If you still have weeds at season’s end, then consider a fall weed and feed fertilizer to eliminate weeds. The big push in the spring is to apply a pre emergent with fertilizer in the spring, and I certainly recommend that, but I believe that a fall pre emergent is just as important. There are many varieties of weeds (chickweed, clover, annual bluegrass, etc.) that germinate over the winter and show up in late February and early March. It is MUCH easier to keep those seeds from germinating over winter than to try and kill them out in the spring. Ok, time to pitch a product….sorry, gotta pay the bills. At our stores we have a product called Broadleaf Weed Control with Gallery, made by Fertilome. I use this one in the late fall to ensure I have a protective layer of pre emergent weed control on my lawn. I also use it in my flower beds too, works great. Just don’t plan on seeding anything where it goes down for about 60 days. So, there you go, a few easy things to keep in mind for the best lawn on the block! Unless of course everyone on the block reads this and does it. Then you will all be the same amount of envious green.