Do this now for greener grass on the other side of winter.
Summer is usually considered prime time for gardening and lawn care, but every season counts. During fall months, tree leaves dry and change color, making front and back lawn care a must. Whether it’s raking the yard or spreading nutrient-rich grass feed, there are plenty of simple and effective ways to prep the lawn for winter hibernation. We asked lawn care experts which fall lawn care steps are essential to transform your yard into a lush sea of green come spring. Here's what they said.
Fall Lawn Care Steps
Clear Out Weeds and Dead Plants
Although they're most visible in the summer weather, weeds grow all year round. In the fall, weed out dead or dying plants and make room for brush and ground coverage plants, says Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love. Weeding and clearing out dead plants keeps the soil nutrient-rich and prevents weeds from taking over, he says.
“Since fall is a recovery and preparation time for your lawn, it needs plenty of water," Yamaguchi says. Summer droughts and water restrictions likely keep your lawn from getting the water it needs in summer, so fall is the time to fix that. You're also preparing your lawn for winter dormancy, and it needs to be healthy to sprout in spring. Aim for about an inch of water per week, with more or less depending on rainfall.” After freezing temperatures hit, stop watering completely to prevent freeze damage.
Remove Flammable Plants
Summer and wildfires seem to go together, but fall is also a fire-prone season. Many beloved plants carry natural oils that are incredibly flammable. “Cypress trees, juniper, rosemary, eucalyptus, and arborvitae are some common ones,” Yamaguchi says. If wildfires are a real threat in your area, fall is the time to consider removing these plants from your yard to reduce the fire hazards. And now is a good time to get fire insurance if you don’t already have it.
Apply a Nutritious Fertilizer
Give the front and back lawns a good feed before the winter. While top growth for the grass may slow, there is still plenty going on beneath the soil. Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to encourage deep root growth earlier in the fall while the ground is still soft and before the first frost. Fertilizing at the right time will help the grass store nutrients during the winter. With this boost, grass is more likely to come back healthier and greener in the spring.
Plant Seeds, If Needed
Some spring blooming plants need to be seeded in fall or late summer, advises Yamaguchi. Seeding in the fall can help fill in thin or bare patches. Late summer to early fall is a great time to seed while the weather is still warm enough and the nights aren’t too cool. But don’t worry, he says, if the seeds don’t take in the fall, there will still be time to try again in the spring.
Whether it’s leaves, pine needles, or fallen sticks, keeping the grass clear of dense patches of natural debris promotes grass growth and reduces slipping and fire hazards. While the occasional jumping pile is fun for kids of all ages, more substantial piles of leaves can smother the grass, gather moisture, and create an ideal environment for pests. Rake regularly to maintain a neat and clean appearance.
Dethatch and Aerate
Ever wonder why your lawn looks like a mat of dead or broken grass, roots, and plants? This combo of organic materials is called thatch, and it can build up if your lawn is regularly mowed but not raked or aerated. Fall is an excellent time to dethatch and aerate any lawn.
Manual raking will do the trick, although power rakes can help, too. Dethatching ensures water, nutrients, and air reach the grassroots more effectively. Aerating creates small holes in the soil to promote better circulation of nutrients, light, water, and air. You can do it manually with a pitchfork, shoe spikes, or a liquid solution made of enzymes. Though they require additional equipment, dethatching and aerating in the fall is a worthwhile investment.
Mow the Grass Low
As the season progresses into fall, don’t be afraid to give your lawn an even shorter cut. Try not to scalp the lawn, but mow grass shorter than in the warm season. The shorter length will prevent the grass from becoming matted and growing mold. As the weather turns cooler, the grass may grow slower, meaning you’ll cut less frequently. When the grass completely stops growing, stop cutting until spring.
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