By Lisa Marie Conklin
Fall is our cue to finally stop mowing every Saturday and spend that free time watching college football. Not so fast! Fall is actually the ideal time to prepare your lawn for healthy growth in the spring.
I’m Not Done Growing Yet!
If you live in a cooler climate you may be inclined to think the grass growing season tails off at the end of summer but the opposite is true. During the fall, grass naturally prepares itself for the long winter ahead and just loves extra pampering.
Not Too Short Please
According to the Lawn Institute, a not-for-profit organization, mowing heights vary by the type of grass you have. Lawn care pros suggest keeping some height to your grass to maximize the soil’s coolness and reduce evaporation. When grass is taller, it also helps prevent weeds and disease.
However, mowing heights change in the fall if you live in a climate that has snow or temps below freezing for more than 30 days. You may want to sharpen your blade before the fall cutting.
Then, lower the blade on your mower, making sure not to cut more than one-third of the length for the last two cuts of the season. This will help the sun reach the crown of the grass, reduce matting of the grass, and stave off fungal disease.
Summer is rugged on our lawns. Grass loses a lot of nutrients during the summer so fertilizing in the fall is essential to establish deep roots to keep nutrients on reserve until spring rolls around. A quick-release fertilizer is best to use in the fall as it will add energy to the roots before it enters the dormant season.
A hand-held broadcast spreader is suited for small areas but the fertilizer coverage isn’t consistent and spots of grass are missed. A walk-behind drop spreader is easier to use and distributes an even layer of fertilizer.
Wicked Weeds Be Gone!
Clover and dandelions are nutrient hogs. They prepare for their winter by using all the nutrients for their own root growth. Apply an herbicide early in the fall before it gets too cold. Most herbicides are at their best when the temperature is consistently 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t let the brown spots alarm you. The grass will grow back healthy in the spring. For spot weeding, try these natural and organic options.
Rake or Mulch Leaves?
Studies by turf grass specialists at Michigan State University found that when leaves were mulched into established turf, greener grass resulted in the spring and fewer dandelions popped up.
The Lawn Institute recommends mowing leaves with a mulching mower so the leaves can feed the soil. If you don’t have a mower with a mulcher, or a mower with a bag, be sure to rake up the leaves.
Leaves blanketing the ground will shield the grass from needed sunlight. Dead leaves create a soggy mess and suffocate the grass, making it vulnerable to disease and mold.
Pampering your lawn in the fall really doesn’t take that much time or effort. The payoff of a healthy, green turf will feel great on your bare feet this spring.
Images used with permission, courtesy of www.shutterstock.com