A healthy lawn in spring starts in the fall. Follow these fall lawn care tips to successfully overwinter your lawn and watch it surge with green growth in the spring.
Cool season lawns and warm season lawns have to be treated a little differently during fall. Check out these fall lawn care tips for both cool season, and warm season lawns.
Fall Lawn Care Tips for Cool Season Lawns
1.) Decrease Mowing Height
Let your landscape breathe! Your plants, and your lawn, both benefit from air circulation. With the decreased sunlight and cooler temps, your lawns soil will remain moist for most of the time, especially in late fall. Increased air circulation will reduce surface moisture and allow roots to grow deep.
*Important Tip– When decreasing mowing height, make gradual adjustments. Try to decrease a 1/2″ at a time.
2.) Remove Leaves
Leaves are great, but only in your compost pile. Don’t think that leaving leaves on your lawn, or even mulching them in with your mower is doing your lawn any favors.
Leaves block light, block air flow, and trap moisture. These are terrible conditions for your lawn, so be sure to clean leaves off your lawn areas as often as possible.
This back pack blower is one of the best fall cleanup investments you can make.
3.) Spot Treat Weeds
These perennial lawn weeds will come back strong in the spring if not dealt with in the fall.
4.) Adjust Irrigation
Fall is usually the time for a change in how you irrigate your lawn. Cooler soil temps and decreased sunlight means you should be able to back off a little on irrigating. Just keep a watch out for those random warm spells that can pop up.
The only exception to decreasing irrigation during the fall is after you fertilize or if you are trying to get seed to germinate. It is important to irrigate during both these times.
5.) Apply Fall Fertilizers
Fertilizing cool season lawns during the fall is extremely important.
With the heat of the summer gone, a lot of lawn weeds are starting to die back and your lawn is becoming dominant.
Take advantage of these conditions by feeding your lawn with a good organic fertilizer such as Milorganite in early fall and then a winterizer fertilizer in late fall.
Winterizer fertilizer has quick release nitrogen, maybe a little phosphorus, and usually some potassium.
Understanding how to read the label on your fertilizer bag is important and worth the education
Remember, the best way to combat weeds, fungus, and heat stress is to have a healthy, thick lawn, so having a solid fertilizing program is key.
6.) Apply Lime
Since limestone can burn your lawn when exposed to intense sun, it is best to apply lime in the fall. Only apply lime if it’s necessary.
Your lawns soil should have a PH of about 5.8-7. If your lawns PH is lower then 5.8 adding lime will increase PH to a healthier range.
Checking the PH of your soil is actually very easy with one of these ph probes.
7.) Core Aerate/Overseed
Core aerating and overseeding is one of the best ways to turn around a struggling lawn.
If your lawn took a bit of a beating this past year then check out this core aerating/overseeding instructional to get it back on track.
8.) Top Dress Lawn
If you want to seriously make improvements to your lawn, then top dressing is your answer.
In fact, for the ultimate lawn renovation, combine core aeration and overseeding with topdressing. This is the best way to completely renovate your lawn without having to start over.
If you suspect your lawn has a thatch problem, then dethatching is a must. Early fall is the best time to address thatch problems. Check out this complete guide on how to tell if you have a thatch problem and what to do about it: Lawn Dethatching: Everything You Need to Know
10.) Apply Grub Killer
There are 2 different ways to deal with grubs. One is by using a preventative chemical and the other is by using a chemical that kills grubs that are actively feeding on your lawn.
Once fall hits, grubs go to the root system of your lawn to feed. At this point, preventative chemicals are pointless, but the chemicals that kill grubs that are actively feeding will make a big difference. These products usually say something like “kills grubs within 24 hours” right on the bag.
For more on grub prevention and treatment check out: White Grubs: Prevention and Treatment
Fall Lawn Care Tips for Warm Season Lawns
For warm season grasses such as Zoysia, Bermuda, Bahiagrass, and Centipede, cooler temps signal it’s time to slow growth and prepare for dormancy. Unlike cool season grasses, warm season grass thrives in the summer months and begins to wind down for the year when fall arrives.
1.) Discontinue Fertilizing with Nitrogen
As the cooler temperatures approach and your warm season lawn heads into dormancy, stop fertilizing with Nitrogen. Dormancy for warm season lawns is normal in certain areas that have cooler winters. Fertilizing with nitrogen encourages blade growth and can cause stress since blade growth should naturally be slowing down.
2.) Don’t Dethatch or Core Aerate
Dethatching and core aerating should only be done when your lawn is actively growing, or right before it starts actively growing. After dethatching and overseeding, your lawn will have lots of bare spots.
These bare spots will fill in as long as the grass is actively growing. For warm season lawns this is late spring through the summer. These are much better times for core aeration and dethatching.
3.) Spot Treat and Apply Pre-emergent for Winter Weeds
In fall when southern lawns start to cool back down to a soil temp of 70 degrees, they are vulnerable to attack from cool season weeds. Applying a pre-emergent herbicide when soil temps head back down to 70 degrees will help prevent weeds from emerging throughout the fall and winter months.
For any weeds that do emerge, spot treat using a post-emergent liquid herbicide.
4.) Clean Leaves
Clean leaves off of lawn areas to maximize air flow and prevent disease and fungus.
5.) Keep Irrigating
You can usually back off a little, but make sure you keep irrigating. This may seem backwards since the top of your lawn will be brown and dormant, but underneath the soil is not dormant. The roots still require water to remain healthy.
6.) Optional Overseeding With Ryegrass
There is a strategy that some people with warm season grasses use to get a green lawn during the winter months. Since warm season grasses go dormant due to the cold temps, they overseed using either perennial rye grass or annual rye grass.
Since the rye grass is a cool season grass it will thrive during the winter months in southern regions and go dormant, or completely die back, when the hot temperatures arrive and the warm season grasses out compete the rye grass.
This strategy is a little controversial. Some people have great success with it while others complain it’s damaging to their warm season lawn and their lawn never truly converts back to the warm season grass. For more info about this strategy check out the link: Warm Season Lawn Overseeing With Rye
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