5 Fall Lawn Care Tips To Keep Your Lawn Looking Its Best

Man racking his leaves in his yard

Most homeowners are aware that they need to care for their lawn in the spring, but few realize that the secret to a lush and beautiful lawn is year-round maintenance.

With that in mind, we’ve brought you five fall lawn care tips to help you keep your lawn looking its best.

How to best care for your lawn this autumn

1. Mow your lawn shorter

Overall, in the fall, it’s best to shoot for having mid-length grass. If it’s too long, tall grass can get matted by the falling leaves and become diseased. However, if it’s too short, the roots can become exposed and can be damaged by cooler temperatures.

As a rule of thumb, your best bet is to cut cool-season grasses to about 2.5 inches before the first frost. Warm-season grasses, on the other hand, need to be even shorter than that. You’ll want to cut those grasses to about 2 inches as the weather starts to cool.

Generally, once the temperatures start to consistently fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to stop cutting your grass entirely. When you make your last cut for the season, you’ll want to cut your grass about half an inch shorter than normal.

2. Go ahead and overseed

As grasses mature, some thinning is normal. With that in mind, overseeding the lawn, or the process of spreading grass seed over an existing lawn, can be a great way to keep your lawn looking lush and full, even during cooler temperatures.

Experts recommend seeding your lawn around 45 days before you experience your first frost. We recognize that, since you won’t know exactly when the first frost will occur, it can be hard to to pinpoint a exact day. But, for most people with four-season climates the time frame usually falls between late August and mid-September.

To seed, prepare the area by cutting the grass to a height of about 2 inches. Then, rake over the area in order to prepare it to receive the seeds. Finally, use a spreader to spread the seed at the rate recommended by the seeding product.

3. Bring on the fertilizer

Whether you’re planning on overseeding your lawn this season or not, fall is widely considered to be the best time to fertilize your lawn. Supporting root growth now will help you ensure that you have a better chance of ending up with a healthy lawn this spring. Plus, morning dew also helps deliver some necessary moisture for your lawn to absorb the fertilizer.

As for when the best time will be to apply to fertilizer, this time, your goal should be to aim to do it about 2-3 weeks before the ground freezes for the first time. Again, it can be hard to know exactly when this date will be, but those in four-season climates ought to plan on fertilizing around mid-October for best results.

If you live in a climate that gets colder in the winter, be sure to pick a winterizing fertilizer, or a slow-release, granular fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. While liquid fertilizer delivers a sudden jolt of nutrients, granular fertilizer will feed your grass slowly over time, which is what you want to happen during the winter season.

4. Check for thatch

Thatch is a mixed layer of living and dead plant material that lives below the soil where the stem of your grass meets the root. While a thin thatch layer — less than a half-inch thick — can be beneficial to soil health because it helps keep in moisture, too much thatch can suffocate grass roots and become a breeding ground for insects.

To check for thatch, take a garden trowel or spade and use it to dig up a small wedge of your grass and soil. You should be able to see the layer of thatch just under the soil. It’s typically a yellow-brown shade and, if the layer is more than an inch thick, you need to set about dethatching.

As you’ll want to keep the damage to your existing grass as minimal as possible, you’ll need the proper equipment for this task. In most cases, the piece of equipment that you need is called either a “thatching rake” or a “power rake” and it can usually be rented from your local hardware store.

5. Attack weeds now

Believe it or not, there are certain types of weeds that germinate in the late summer, through the fall, and any winter warm spells. These are known as winter annuals and can include weeds like chickweed, clover, winter bluegrass, and filaree. Then, they grow through the winter.

Luckily, you can combat these weeds by applying a pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn. As the name suggests, this type of herbicide is aimed at stopping these weeds before they start to grow. These chemicals come in liquid form, which can be applied with a sprayer, or granular form, which requires a spreader.

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