As you start putting your lawn to bed, you must take care of three fall lawn maintenance tasks now to secure healthy grass growth next spring.
This is the most important time of year to fertilize for cool-season grasses. This last application of slow-release organic fertilizer will provide the grass with the strength it needs to make it through winter. Lay down about 1-4 pounds per 1,000 square feet of grass that gets full sun (shaded areas of your lawn don’t need quite as much). Getting your soil tested first will help you determine any nutrient deficiencies you may then correct by adapting your dosage of fertilizer. (Warm-season grasses need fertilizer in the spring.)
2. Aerate and Overseed
In order for cool-season grasses to establish new lawn and build up existing areas, now is the time to plant. The cooler weather helps eliminate the competition from germinating weed seeds, so the grass is able to gain a stronger foothold. Start by aerating your landscape to allow for freer nutrient and water circulation, and to help prevent thatching, then proceed with the overseeding.
3. Eliminate Weeds
Take down those dandelions! As broadleaf perennial weeds like dandelion and clover prepare for winter, they pull nutrients (and herbicide applications) from the soil into their roots. Treat problem spots with an herbicide or try an organic alternative, such as a vinegar-based or other acidic product.
In addition to these three tasks, continue your regular lawn care routine. Yes, the weather has cooled and your grass is no longer suffering in the same way it did over the summer. But the landscape still needs a good drink weekly to keep it moist in the drier air of fall and winter. Keep mowing as well, but with a higher setting on your mower—about 2 inches—so you are cutting the blades a little shorter than usual. Do so until you’ve noticed growth has stopped and the lawn has reached dormancy. Finally, as the trees begin to release their leaves, keep your lawn as debris-free as possible by raking often.
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