Fall Revitalization for a Healthy Spring Lawn

Feeding and caring your lawn in the fall will help it thrive again in the spring.

Spring is the time for renewal. But when it comes to lawn care, what you do in the fall will make all the difference when spring comes. If you want a lush, green lawn in the spring, prime your lawn in autumn by taking these seven steps.

Soil Testing

Good fall lawn care begins with a soil test. Take soil samples from two to three sections of your property and have your local university extension office analyze the results. They can tell you exactly what nutrients your lawn needs and in what amounts.

Mowing and Raking

How often you mow your lawn depends on the type of grass and how quickly it grows:

  • Cool season grasses, such as fescue or rye: mow every week or two at a height of 3-4 inches as long as it continues to grow.
  • Warm season grasses, such as Bermuda or buffalo: mow once in late summer, once when it starts to brown (usually in early October when it goes dormant), and once in spring when it starts to grow again.

Short grass clippings can be left on the lawn; they will quickly decompose and add nutrients to the soil.

Rake dead leaves because they can block air and sun and damage the grass.

Fertilizing

Just because grass growth slows or stops during cooler weather doesn't mean roots stop absorbing and using nutrients. The type of grass and soil test results will determine when and how often you need to fertilize. Cool season grasses should be fertilized in September, October or November. Warm season grasses should be fertilized between July and September since they go dormant earlier.

In either case, homeowners should apply a potassium-rich fertilizer once at the end of the growing season, since potassium strengthens the grass during winter.

Watering

Once again, the type of grass determines watering frequency. Since warm weather grasses are dormant during the fall, they require little, if any, watering. Cool weather grasses require watering about every week. Newly planted grass seed should be watered 3-4 times a week until it sprouts.

Weeding

Healthy lawns are not prone to infestation by pests or disease. Build up your soil and feed your lawn to keep it healthy. Pull and destroy all weeds, otherwise they can become a nuisance if they go to seed.

Aerating

Fall is the time to aerate the soil by poking holes in the ground throughout the lawn. Aerating reduces soil compaction, controls thatch and helps water and fertilizer move into roots. The most effective technique is when actual cores or plugs of soil (about 2-3 inches deep and 2-4 inches apart) are pulled from the lawn. Plugs are easiest to pull if you thoroughly water your lawn the day before.

You can use a hand puller or an aerating machine called a core aerator that comes in a walk-behind model or one that is towed behind a tractor or lawnmower.

Green grass in the spring and summer comes from early preparation in the fall.

Overseeding

Many homeowners don't want to wait until spring for green grass - they want it in autumn, too. That's why people overseed their existing lawn with annual or perennial ryegrass or blends of cool weather grasses in October. If you overseed earlier than this, your existing lawn will compete with the new grass. Overseeding allows homeowners to look out at a carpet of green, even if leaves are turning red, yellow, orange and brown.

The basics of proper lawn care are the same, regardless of where you live or the type of grass you grow: You need to know what kind of grass you have, what the mowing, watering and fertilization requirements are for that grass, and you need to develop a seasonal maintenance schedule that meets those needs. Follow these tips and you'll be sure to have a lush, green lawn come springtime.