The arid and hot summer can definitely take its toll on your lawn. This year especially, drought and high temperatures have ravished lawns causing them to burn and wilt—which makes for a nasty site out your front door. However, now that fall is here, your lawn finally has the chance to recover from the summer heat. Now is the time to reenergize your lawn from the brutal conditions of summer, and prepare it for the upcoming winter months. Acting now means taking advantage of the warmer soil and cooler temperatures to promote root growth and lawn thickening.
Many people have the misconception that mowing needs to stop once the temperature get cooler. This is not so. Grass will continue to grow even through late fall, and will need to be cut periodically. It is important to leave the grass a bit higher to encourage deep roots. It is also beneficial to the grass to leave the clippings on the lawn. These clippings will add nutrients and organic material that is essential to healthy roots and appearance.
Another way to add nutrients and organic material to your fall lawn is to mow the grass with the leaves atop of it. Do not bother raking because the leave clippings are just beneficial as grass clippings for your lawn. The rule of thumb, however, is that you are able to still see your grass through the leaf clippings. If you do not like the look of leaf clippings, rake the leaves into a pile and store in compost. Use this compost for garden plants and perennials around your property.
If your lawn has taken a beating from the summer heat, you may want to consider core aeration, especially if it is suffering from compacted soil and thatch. You can chose to use the services of a landscaping company or do it yourself, but either way, core aeration is quite beneficial to a lawn’s recovery. Core aeration machines remove tufts of soil from the lawn, allowing air and water to reach the roots. Core aeration helps nourish the grass and encourages the breakdown of thatch. After this process, seeding a thin lawn will ensure a luscious return in the spring.
If you do decide to hire a landscape company to help with core aeration, be sure to ask that they provide some guarantee of their work. You will want to work with a company that can stand behind their results, because you do not want a dead lawn in the spring! With proper technique and good seeding, you will enjoy a thicker and greener lawn next year.
Another common misconception is that you do not have to fertilize your lawn in the fall. However, fertilizing in the fall will help your lawn recover from the stress of the summer, encourages root growth, and prepares it for the winter months. Once again, fertilization is probably best done by a professional landscaping company with the proper know-how and equipment for optimal results. If you are going to go at alone, make sure that you use a low nitrogen fertilizer that encourages a slow and steady growth of grass. Research shows that microorganisms in low nitrogen fertilizer help bind phosphorous and potassium to the soil. This phosphorous is essential for root growth, while potassium aids in root hardiness and disease resistance.
If you decide to fertilize before the winter months, make sure it is before the first freeze of the season. This will allow for optimum absorption of the nutrients into the soil and roots. The nutrients are greatly degraded once the ground begins to freeze. Typically, fertilization treatments should be applied between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.
Grass continues to be watered up until the ground freezes. These are typically hot days throughout fall, and grass can become damaged when it does not receive enough water. Keep an eye on the moisture content of your lawn, as drought may cause thatch, bald patches, and yellow grass in the spring. If you have a sprinkler system you may want to hold off turning it off until the temperature get too cold, or there is an excessive amount of rain.
Just as in the summer, be sure to sweep up fertilizer waste, grass and leaf clippings, and other yard waste off of the sidewalks and streets. These can end up running into the sewers and make their way into people’s drinking water.
Keeping up with your lawn in the fall may mean less work for you in the spring as well. You will not have to stress spring clean up as much if have been an avid landscaper throughout the fall. In the end, the extra effort will result in a beautiful lawn that you will be proud of.