It may still be hot out but now is the right time to start preparing your lawn for winter. By taking care of your lawn in the fall, you can have a beautiful lawn come spring! Just follow these suggestions for a lush and healthy lawn.
Aerate & Dethatch
If you haven’t aerated or dethatched recently, it is a great place to start in your fall lawn care regimen. It is best to aerate every couple years to keep soil from becoming compacted. Compacted lawns or lots of thatch can reduce water and nutrients from reaching your grass, causing it to grow slower or not seem as healthy as it should. One way to tell if your soil is compacted is by trying to insert a screwdriver into the soil. If you cannot, it is compacted. With thick thatch, you won’t be able to easily reach the soil with your finger and the lawn will feel spongy.
For aeration, you can either call a lawn care service or rent an aerator yourself. Be sure to research how to aerate your lawn if you decide to do it yourself!
If you need to dethatch (more than ½ inch of thatch), you can use a dethatching rake similar to a regular rake. Be sure to mow your lawn shorter than normal before you dethatch. You will want to fertilize after aeration or dethatching to help your grass recover.
It is important to feed early in the fall so you have time to get a second feeding before winter. This will help your lawn become more beautiful next spring and rebuild dry, damaged roots from summer heat. Consider using a Fall Weed and Feed, such as Scotts® Turf Builder® WinterGuard® Fall Weed & Feed. Not only will this feed your lawn but it will also kill weeds such as clovers and dandelions. If you live in the South, you will want a Southern lawn food or weed and feed. If you get your first feeding early enough, you can re-apply another weed and feed or lawn food 6-8 weeks after your first application.
Fall is the perfect time to seed for cool-weather grasses such as bluegrass, fescue, ryegrass and bentgrass. If you have a warm-season grass, such as Bermuda, St. Augustine or Zoysia, you should wait until the spring to seed. The ideal time to seed is between mid-August and mid-October, but be sure you wait at least 4 weeks after using a Weed and Feed or your new grass might not grow!
When you are ready to overseed your current lawn, mow lower than normal, dethatch or rake your lawn to loosen the soil and remove dead grass. Then apply your seed according to the directions and water regularly. You will want to water daily for the first two weeks and only resume mowing when the lawn is at your normal mowing height.
Many people think that tree leaves will insulate your lawn over winter but they can actually smother your grass and block sunlight. But don’t get your rake out; you can mulch your leaves as you mow before applying your late fall feeding. That will help the soil break down the leaves and even gives your lawn some nutrients.
A common misconception is that you need to mow shorter for the final mowing of the season but that is not usually the case! You should continue mowing your lawn the same height you have all year, at the height appropriate for your grass type (see chart below). When you cut your grass too short, your grass can go hungry over the winter and will need to recover in the spring. As long as you mulch your leaves to dime-sized pieces, your lawn will be able to breath and will not have a chance to mold!
Warm Season Grasses
|Bahai||2.5 – 4 inches|
|Bermuda||0.5 – 2.5 inches|
|Buffalo||1.5 – 4 inches|
|Centipede||1 – 2.5 inches|
|Kikuyu Grass||1 – 1.5 inches|
|St. Augustine||1 – 3 inches|
|Zoysia||0.5 – 3 inches|
Cool Season Grasses
|Fine Fescue||1.5 – 4 inches|
|Kentucky Bluegrass||0.75 – 3.5 inches|
|Perennial Ryegrass||0.5 – 2.5 inches|
|Tall Fescue||1.5 – 4 inches|
By taking the steps above, your lawn will be nice and healthy come spring next year. Don’t wait to take care of your lawn until then; a healthy lawn over the winter will give you the right lawn to work with in the spring! Be sure to talk to your Homebase Lumber or DIY Supply team member to find out what they recommend for your lawn!
Homebase Lumber is not responsible for damage or issues with your lawn or personal injury from following these lawn care steps. If you have concerns about your lawn, please contact a lawn care professional.
Ali is a freelance writer and graphic designer who is avid about home care, inside and out! You can find her work at eyesightmedia.com.