The last couple of times you cut the lawn this year, do so with the mower on its lowest blade-height setting. Cutting so closely allows more sunlight to reach the crown of the grass blades, and it may minimize the extent to which your lawn looks brown while dormant. Just be careful not to trim off any more than a third in a single session. Overly aggressive cutting can shock the lawn and compromise its health.
Related: The Right Way to Mow the Lawn
Don't Leave Leaves
As trees begin to drop their leaves, rake and rake often. Why? Because most lawns contain at least some cool-season grasses, and true to their name, these varieties are active in the cool weather of fall. Left under a layer of leaves, deprived of sunlight, cool-season grasses are bound to struggle, if not die.
Related: The Dummies' Guide to Raking Leaves
In Northern States, Aerate
Even if you've never aerated before, you would likely recognize the process's leftovers—wine cork-shaped cylinders of earth. Primarily a means by which to combat soil compaction, aeration is the recommended method of ensuring that air, moisture, and nutrients are able to reach grass roots. Since cool-season grasses are active in fall, now is an ideal time to aerate if you live in the North (if you live in a warm climate, then aerate in summer).
Related—How To: Aerate Your Lawn
In warm climates, fertilizing is a year-round affair. But in regions with cold winters, fall is the most important time to administer a slow-release organic fertilizer. In areas that get full sun, lay down between one and four pounds per 1,000 square feet of grass; in shaded areas, use a little less. Use a spreader tool, because even dispersal is key.
Related: Don't Forget to Fertilize Your Lawn This Fall!
After aerating and fertilizing, go ahead and plant grass seeds in a cold-weather climate. For one thing, the process couldn't be easier. And second, the weather creates perfect conditions. There's sufficient sun and plenty of rain; there's less competition from weeds; and the nip in the air gives way to strong roots. To give newly planted seeds the best chance of survival, do take the time to properly till the soil.
Related—How To: Plant Grass Seed
Be a Super Soaker
This time of year, you don't need to water as often as you did over the summer, but you should still maintain a regular sprinkler schedule. That's true in part because watering aids fertilizer to work more effectively and is of vital importance for newly planted seeds.
Related: Top Tips for Watering the Lawn
Kill the Weeds
As they prepare for winter, broadleaf perennial weeds, such as dandelion and clover, pull nutrients from the soil into their roots. Treat problem spots with an application of commercial herbicide or try an organic alternative.
Related: 9 Natural Ways to Kill Weeds
Lay the groundwork now, and your grass will be green next spring.
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