After a long, hot summer of mowing and trimming, fall always brings the promise of a lighter workload in the yard. While it’s true that the mowing is on its way out for the year, you should also be doing some simple things to prepare the lawn for winter so that it will be healthier and more beautiful in the spring.
Of course, general cleanup is a good idea to start you off. Remove any buildup of leaves, limbs, or other debris, and continue mowing according to the needs of your particular grass. Beyond those general ideas, here are four things to do this fall so that your yard is even better next year.
The best investment in having fewer weeds next spring is controlling them this fall. Many people make the mistake of assuming that the annual weeds driving them crazy all summer will at least die out this winter. While it’s true that they will die, it will only happen after they have produced thousands of seeds, ready to sprout with the first warm days of spring next year.
Use an appropriate herbicide to knock those weeds out before they have time to produce seed. Every seed that you prevent this fall is a weed you may be preventing for spring. Watch label instructions and make sure you apply herbicides well in advance of any reseeding, which brings us to our next point.
Add New Seed in Thin Areas
Each spring you’ll see lots of grass seed in the local home improvement store. It’s typically replaced by pumpkins or even Christmas trees by fall, and that’s a problem. The declining temperatures of autumn actually create better conditions for planting grass than the spring, when temperatures are working their way up and weeds are on the prowl.
Any part of your lawn with thin or dead areas should be reseeded in the fall, if you have cool-season species like fescue. The remaining warm weather will help the seeds germinate and establish strong roots that will be ready to go when spring arrives.
Fertilizing is another job that feels like it belongs on the list of spring chores but actually needs to be done in the fall. Spring fertilization with nitrogen will definitely create a response. The grass will grow faster and turn a deep green, giving you the impression that you’ve helped it.
However, spring fertilization creates two problems. First, it fertilizes weeds just as they’re getting started for the year. It’s obvious that you don’t want to do that. Second, it encourages top growth from the grass with little help for the roots. The result is a blade-heavy plant that lacks the ability to pick up water and nutrients from the soil, making dry weather more stressful and pushing your grass into dormancy come summer.
Review Drainage and Runoff
As winter rolls closer, you will start to see more and more rainfall. The dry summer conditions will quickly become a memory as cold fronts start passing through your area, usually dropping rainfall. By the time winter arrives, the runoff could really be problematic.
Use those late summer showers as an opportunity to look for runoff from lawn buildings, driveways, sidewalks, and your gutters. Make sure that there is no accumulation of water but that all runoff truly runs off. This will prevent spongy areas where grass struggles to grow next year. Driveways, in particular, should drain well so that any salt you use this winter will not be concentrated in your grass.
Perennial plants like grass will only perform as well next year as you prepared them this year. Good mowing, cleanup, fertilization, reseeding, runoff management, and weed control will help your lawn look its very best next year. Take some time in the late summer to look ahead to next year so that you will have a healthy and beautiful lawn next year.