Fall is here and spring is a dream away, but that doesn't mean it's too early to start preparing your lawn for next spring. Don’t let the slow-growing grass and the imminent plunging temperature of winter fool you into complacency when it comes to lawn care. Here’s a good to-do list for your lawn this fall. Hurry. The promise of a lush and healthy lawn next spring depends on this.
Get Rid of the Leaves
Fall is that time of the year when you get to see a colorful mat of leaves on your lawn. While nature’s colors can be very beautiful, you still need to remove those leaves regularly since they block off the much-needed sunlight from the plants underneath. Furthermore, those leaves could hold some moisture that would lead to the growth of lawn fungi when soggy leaves pile up.
Aside from raking, you can also use a lawnmower that’s fitted with a collection bag for the dead leaves to make this task easier.
Water When Necessary
With plummeting temperature leading to less evaporation and more frequent rainfall in the coming months, some people mistakenly think that nature will take care of watering the plants during fall. That’s not the case at all. While it’s true that there’s generally more moisture and dew to take care of plants’ basic water needs, it’s still up to you to assess if they’re getting enough to sustain them. Generally, if you’re not getting at least an inch of rain in a week, you’ll need to turn up those sprinklers to keep the plants hydrated enough.
It’s best to water your lawn early in the morning when the temperature’s cooler and the winds are relatively light so you don’t waste as much water to evaporation. Avoid watering your lawn at night, though, because this will encourage fungal growth.
Remove Excess Thatch
Notice that collection of clumped roots, dead grass clippings, and other organic matter on the top layer of the soil? Those are thatches and in moderation, they wouldn’t much of a problem for your plants. But when that layer becomes thicker and compacted, it can choke out the grasses and lead to disease and damage.
To assess the thatch level, dig a small cross-section of your lawn and see if you’ve accumulated more than an inch of thatch. If so, removing those is next in order. Depending on the degree of thatch you have to remove, you can either use a power rake to remove excess thatch or use an aerator to loosen the soil.
Fertilize the Soil
If you only have to fertilize your lawn once a year, mid to late fall would be the best time to do it. This is the time when grass leaves grow slowly while the roots and rhizomes grow extensively beneath the ground. This is the time when plants load up on nutrients they need to get them through winter and give them a healthy start for spring.
Slow-release, nitrogen-rich fertilizers are the best for plants. Use a walk-behind drop spreader or a crank-style broadcast spreader to apply the fertilizer for better coverage.
Apply Some Compost
Want to save up on fertilizer and reduce the amount of thatch at the same time? Applying compost on your lawn is the best way to do this. Mix equal parts of sand, loam, and peat and then spread this evenly over your lawn by raking it in. This process will do wonders in improving the soil condition of your lawn and provide optimum growth for your plants without using too much fertilizer.
Keep that Lawn Mower Working
Keep on mowing your lawn during fall. You should lower the blade if you’ve raised it higher than usual during summer. Then, gradually lower the blade as fall draws to a close so that your final cutting would be at the lowest setting. With this process, you don’t cut the grass too short at the start of fall as this will just encourage the growth of weeds. As winter commences, you’d want to cut them short so that light can reach the crown of the grass and there’ll be fewer leaves withering during the coming cold months.
Attack those Pesky Weeds
Weeds are at their most troublesome during springtime when they’re very obvious and could spoil an otherwise pristine-looking lawn. But the best time to take care of this problem is during fall when they’re very active in taking up all the nutrients it can suck out of the soil to prepare for their dormancy in the coming winter and their resurgence during spring.
Taking advantage of this natural process, a herbicide is best applied during fall, when they're taking in poison indiscriminately along with other nutrients. Do this and you’ll be amazed at the difference it could bring come springtime.
Take Care of Dead Patches
Those dead patches are a distraction and you don’t want to see it on your lawn. Fall presents the best opportunity for you to fix this issue. Seeding and sodding are best done during this season because the germinating seeds or growing grasses won’t have to compete with too many weeds. Plus, they have ample time to grow and establish a root system during fall and winter months to prepare them for their lush display during spring and the intense heat of summer.
Get Your Timing Right
The key to all these processes is to get the timing right. For instance, you fertilize too late in the season and the roots won’t have ample time to take in the nutrients in its surroundings. You mow too short early on and grasses won’t develop an extensive root system and weeds may seize the opportunity to take over. Get the timing right and you’ll be rewarded with an enviable lawn for months to come.
Maintaining an immaculate lawn is not an easy feat. You have to perform some tasks like clockwork at different times of the year. But think of fall as the time to set the foundation. You get the foundation right, everything else will be easy as a breeze.