Effective fall lawn care requires a bit of TLC to help it settle into the cooler months after a long, active summer. During the summer your grass likely saw a lot of action, from backyard parties to children and pets playing outside far more often than in the cooler seasons. Whatever your summer landscape has been through, early fall is the perfect time to take care of your lawn and prepare it for a winter break.
Even if the summer is then only a memory, it’s a safe bet that your lawn is still suffering the abuse of heat and occasional North Texas drought. Here are some tips on how to restore your health to the lawn and prepare it to survive the winter and turn green in the spring.
How Often Do I Mow My Lawn In Fall?
An autumn mowing schedule depends largely on the type of grass you’ve got, as well as the amount of precipitation it’s received during the summer months. It is advised you to mow with the blades in a high position so as not to expose the roots to the sun because we can still experience hot days in the early autumn. You should be able to reduce the frequency of mowing every 2-3 weeks, as the days become shorter and the growing season wanes.
Fertilize Damaged Lawns
Parts of the lawn that are damaged will recover more quickly if you do two fertilization applications in the fall. The first, to be done in early fall (mid-August to mid-September), will help turf recover from the abuse during the growing season. Nitrogen and potassium will stimulate turf growth, encouraging the roots and blades to toughen up before winter. Fertilization should provide 0.5 kg of nitrogen per 100 m 2.
Overseeding on Damaged Spots
A simple addition of fertilizer is of no help where the damage is too great. Instead, seed the area to be repaired by evenly distributing the seed of the desired mixture. Utilizing a perpendicular pattern will ensure an even distribution.
Aerating your lawn with a core drill prior to over-seeding sometimes provides better soil-seed contact. The recommended species for over-seeding are perennial ryegrass, a generally recommended species; fine fescue, for situations that are shaded or require little maintenance; and tall fescue, for stands that must withstand drought. Here are the recommended sowing rates:
- perennial ryegrass: 2-4 kg / 100 m 2
- fine fescue: 1-3 kg / 100 m 2
- tall fescue: 2-3 kg / 100 m 2
The passage of a roller on newly seeded areas promotes emergence.
Master The Root Felt In The Fall
Root felt (which some people refer to as stubble) is home to pathogenic organisms, including the agent responsible for snow mold. When the root felt is too thick, the vegetative point of the blades of grass is then elevated. As the soil has insulating properties that the root felt lacks, the grass can become deprived of this protection.
This condition leaves the grass more vulnerable to destruction by winter. The ideal time for defoliating (improperly called stubble cultivation) is the same as with over-seeding. There are two ways to control the root felt: aeration via coring, and defeathering.
Once all the stubble has been removed, ventilate your lawn by making small, evenly distrubuted holes. This will loosen up the soil that’s been compacted by the dry spells of summer. This helps the air penetrate the ground, increasing the drainage of the lawn, which will be favorable during the winter months.
To aerate your lawn, you can use a fork or a rake aerator (to reserve for small areas, if you do not want to exhaust your yard). You can also find special crampon soles for this purpose at the local garden shop. If not, an easy solution for all surfaces is the aerator extension that attaches to the tiller for smoother, faster and more comfortable work.
Remove Dead Leaves Before First Snow
Leaves left on a lawn deprive it of light and can kill it. The leaves can be removed or sprayed with a chopper and allowed to decompose on the grass. Be sure to use a shredder mower with sharp blades.
Research shows that mulch made up of a layer of leaves up to 15 cm thick will not damage a lawn. In fact, this is a fantastic way to fortify your topsoil with organic nutrients.
Properly Adjust The Height of Your Mower
In the fall, raise the cutting height slightly. The depth of the roots being proportional to the height of the blades of grass, the higher they are, the deeper the roots will be. Longer grass also provides some insulation to the collar (vegetative point) of the blade of grass. On the other hand, if the grass is too long when winter arrives, it will tend to lie down and form a carpet favorable to the outbreak of winter diseases such as pink snow mold and gray snow mold.
Make An End-of-Season Fertilizer
After scarifying and ventilating the soil, it’s time to enrich it. For good winter survival and faster greening in the spring, apply fertilizer when the grass has stopped growing but is still green. This “sweet spot” usually occurs during the last half of October.
Indeed, freshly made holes can penetrate well into the soil, enhancing its ability to absorb nutrients. The grass is initially weakened after scarification, and will need nutrients including potassium. These compounds will favor the strengthening and resistance of the green while curbing the development of foliage, allowing it to withstand winter more resiliently. In the spring, instead, we choose to give nitrogen that promotes growth.
To enrich your soil, you have the choice between:
- A good breeding ground, and not a prime breeding ground, usually with a high proportion of poorly decomposed bark and low nutrients.
- The compost.
- in special autumn fertilizer rich in potash
Your soil is then nourished, and your lawn comes out stronger, ready for General Winter!
What To Do With The Tree Leaves That Litter The Lawn
Watching the slow waltz of a leaf in the wind is a soothing sight. Now, if you leave a carpet of leaves covering your lawn, you are endangering its health, and may have holes in your green carpet in the spring. Make a habit of removing them once or twice a week. This will give you a good carbon input to feed your compost.
Now, if you do not make compost, put them directly on your soil under trees and shrubs. They will make a mulch that will protect the earth and isolate the roots during the winter.
Principles Governing Late Season Fertilization
- The roots take up nitrogen even when the growth of the aerial part has stopped. That’s because they remain active longer than the aerial part, once temperatures have dropped.
- Nitrogen improves the color of the lawn in the fall and, as a result, its chlorophyll content increases photosynthetic activity.
- Stimulation of photosynthesis results in more sugars. Since grass no longer grows at the time of fertilization, sugars produced are not used for growth but stored in a way to promote winter survival and greening in the spring.
- These sugars make the blades of grass less vulnerable to frost. One can make an analogy with a bottle of juice that will take longer to freeze in the freezer than a bottle of water. Grass cells are filled with sugars, thus taking a long time to freeze, and freezing at lower temperatures.
- Nitrogen inflows at the end of the season, promoting deep rooting in the fall. This allows plants to begin spring and summer with healthier, deeper roots.
- Greening occurs early in spring, as the nitrogen stored in the roots is already available when growth resumes.
Take advantage of the excellent growing conditions in the fall to help lawns recover from summer abuse. With two fertilization processes, at carefully chosen times in the fall, the grass will survive better in winter. It will also green up earlier the following spring, and have deeper roots that will allow it to better withstand summertime drought.