For Northern States
The key to having a healthy, green summer lawn is to start prepping it in the fall. There are several things you should do as the summer winds down to prepare your soil and grass for winter. Caring for your lawn properly in the cooler autumn months can prevent weed growth and help you achieve a lush, green lawn the following spring.
The crisp September weather may tempt you to retire your lawnmower for the year, but that’s the last thing you want to do. Letting your grass get too long in the fall can cause it to mat and decompose once the snow falls. As autumn progresses, lower your lawnmower’s blade to about 2 to 2.5″. Shorter grass means the roots won’t get suffocated by their own stalks. Be sure, however, not to trim off more than 1/3 of the grass’ height at a time.
Keep watering your lawn once or twice a week. The grass may be growing slower, but fall is prime time for root growth. Continued watering will help give your lawn the growth and fortitude it needs to survive cold weather and snow.
Many professionals say that even if you only fertilize once a year, you should do it in the fall. Grass leaves may grow faster in the warm summer months, but the roots are in their fastest growing mode in the fall. If you live in the North, one of the best times to fertilize is once in early September and again in the late autumn. If you live in the South, avoid fertilizing dormant warm-season grasses unless they’ve been over-seeded with winter grasses.
Get Rid of Weeds
Fall is the best time to get rid of dandelions, clover, and other broad-leaf weeds. Read the label of your spray to find the best time to use. Most sprays will tell you to apply early-to-mid autumn when the daytime temperatures are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the soil is moist.
Use a lawn repair mixture to fix bald spots in the fall. First, use a rake to scratch loose bald soil, then layer the mixture on top. Lightly compact the soil, water it thoroughly, and continue to water it every other day for two weeks.
Remove Excess Thatch
Thatch is loose, intermingled organic layer of dead and living shoots, stems, and roots that develops between the zone of green vegetation and the soil surface. This happens when dead organic material collects faster than it can decompose. Having too much thatch can cause plant disease, bug infestation, and damage from drought and cold. Check by removing a small section of grass and soil. Any less than a half inch of thatch can actually be good for your lawn, but any more than that should be removed.
Remove excess thatch by cutting through the thatch layer and ripping out debris using a power rake or vertical mowers. After you pull out the thatch with these tools, use a hand rake to remove it from the lawn. Make sure you check if the tools can be used on your lawn; power rakes and vertical mowers can damage centipede grass, St. Augustine grass, and others.
Aerating reduces thatch and can improve your lawn’s drainage while loosening the soil. You’ll want to us an aerator that pulls out plugs of soil, not one that just punches holes in the ground. You can rent aerators at Home Depot for a relatively low cost than buying one to use just once or twice a year.
Apply Top Dressing
You’ll only want to do this if you’ve already de-thatched or aerated your lawn. Sprinkle a thin layer of compost or soil to your lawn in order to reduce future thatch and smooth bumps. You’ll want to spread equal parts loam, sand and peat — just make sure it’s a thin layer; you don’t want to smother your grass! After spreading the mixture, rake it in.
Drain Irrigation Lines
Failing to drain your sprinkler system or irrigation lines can cause costly damage when freezing temperatures set in. Use compressed air or drain valves to empty your pipes of stored water. Just make sure you don’t use more than 50 psi of pressure; you don’t want to bust any pipes or cause damage.
Winterize Trees and Shrubs
To prepare your trees and shrubs for winter, ease off watering them in the fall. This will help them start loosing their leaves and prepare for winter. After your trees and bushes loose all their leaves, give them a good, deep watering using a steady trickle to give them the water they need for winter.
Following these steps will help keep your lawn healthy this winter and come back in the spring better than ever!
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