Fall is my favorite season. Football, BBQ, camping, Halloween and more. But Fall is also a great time to start prepping your lawn for its winter hibernation with these fall lawn care tips.
Fall Lawn Care Tips
- Remove the leaves. You will likely have quit mowing by the time the leaves fall, but leaving them on your lawn during winter will harm your grass by trapping moisture and leaving decaying matter on top of your lawn come spring.
- Mowing at a correct height. Your lawn will continue to grow until your first hard frost (below 28 degrees Fahrenheit or -2 degrees Celsius). The optimal length of grass over the winter months is a final cut to 2.5 – 3 inches (6.35 – 10.16 centimeters). Cutting your grass to short can harm the root system, while cutting it too long can leave decaying matter and mold growth. Grass height is key to your fall lawn care.
- Don’t neglect watering. Until you reach the hard frost, it is beneficial to continue watering your lawn with about an inch (6.35 cm) per week. There is less evaporation in the fall, and watering your lawn will keep the roots healthy and hydrated over the winter months.
- Lawn Aeration. Your lawn becomes compacted over time and fall is the perfect time to loosen up the soil. Aerating pokes holes in the turf matter which will allow oxygen, nutrients and fertilizer to reach the root system where it provides the best help.
- Fall Lawn Care Fertilization. After a fall aeration, it is the perfect time to give your lawn one last fertilization for the winter months. A slow-release granular fertilization of Nitrogen and Potassium (also known as a 24-0-10 fertilizer) is perfect as it provides nutrients for root growth, disease prevention and cold resistance. The 0 in the 24-0-10 is for phosphorus, which is better to add in the Spring months.
- Overseeding. Fall is great time to overseed your lawn. A dense lawn protects against weeds and overseeding in the fall allows for the seeds to germinate with the residual heat in the ground and moisture. The cool nights and sunny days of fall will allow those seeds to take root, ensuring a healthy turf come Spring.
Additional Lawn Care Tips
Fall is a great time to take care of other fall lawn care needs.
Lawn Mower Maintenance
Since you lawn mower will be out of commission for a few months, take the time to drain the gasoline. change the spark plug and get the blades sharpened. If you bag your lawn a good deep cleaning of the bag interior with a shop vacuum will keep the debris away over the winter.
As part of your fall lawn care cleanup, it is a good time to clean those garden beds. Remove any materials used to support your plants such as tomato cages, bean stakes and trellises. I prefer to clean them a two to one solution of water and bleach to kill any diseases that may be lingering on them.
Remove all of the spent plan material. Dead plants, old produce and fruit and any diseased plants should be removed and disposed of. Any healthy material can be added to a compost bin. Pay close attention though, you don’t want to risk tainting your compost with diseased material, otherwise you’ll just be transferring that right back into your garden next Spring.
A light fertilization of compost to your vegetable beds will also be beneficial. In some parts of the country you may even consider planting a cover crop like rye or buckwheat.
Fall is a great time to freshen up your landscaping as well.
- Plant a tree or two. Fall is actually ideal for planting a tree as it give the tree the dormant season to start establishing the roots before it has to start producing leaves.
- Fresh up your mulch. At the end of summer, your mulch starts looking dried out and depleted. Fresh mulch in the fall can add some beneficial moisture back into the soil and insulate the roots of your trees and shrubs.
- Remove dead and dying plants. Removing dead and dying plants will give your landscaping a clean look over the winter and allows you to plan for spring plantings to fill in bare spots.
- Plant Fall bulbs. Fall is the perfect time to plant tulips, daffodils, dahlia and many others. Timing should be at least six weeks before your first hard frost.
- Clean up around solar features. If you are like me, you have many solar features in your landscaping. Take the time to clean up around them, give a slight cleaning to solar panels and light panels, or even store those items that might not be winter friendly.
- Winterize Water Features and sprinkler systems. We have a couple water features in our landscaping that need to be drained and disconnected from power over the freezing months. If you have a sprinkler system you’ll also need to cut the water and blow out the lines for it as well.
Prep the Winter Tools
Unfortunately, Fall means Winter is right around the corner. Part of our fall lawn care routine also involves rearranging the garage. The snow blower and shovels get moved to a more convenient place, while the lawn mower and garden tools find their way back to winter storage.
October is the perfect month to knock out all of your fall lawn care needs. The heat of Summer has past and makes being outside fun again. We like to pull out the fire pit and bring out a portable television and watch some football while firing up the grill and/or smoker.