By the time fall rolls around, you are probably really tired of mowing the lawn, and ready to just leave the yard alone until spring. But did you know that the fall months are the best time of year to improve your lawn? Depending on the condition of your lawn, you can take these few months to get it into tip top shape for spring.
Change your mower height
Mowing during the fall months is basically the same as during the summer, however you should lower the blades by about an inch. This will help eliminate any weed seeds, and let more air down into the soil. If you have a mulching option on your mower, this is a good time to use it. Mulching fall leaves into your lawn is great fertilizer (and free, too!).
Aerating your lawn is most beneficial in areas of high traffic. When your lawn receives a lot of foot traffic, it will compact the soil so much that air cannot get to the grass roots, so it has trouble growing. This is why you see bare patches in a lawn with pet and child traffic. Aerating your lawn is basically punching holes in the soil to allow water and nutrients in, and to let the roots spread out.
There are several types of aerators you can use. Manual types include special shoes, which are designed to strap over your footwear. These shoes have large spikes on the bottom, and you just walk around the lawn, punching small holes into the ground. This is easier to do after it rains, so that your body weight will help sink the spikes into the ground. You can also use a larger manual aerator, which has four hollow tubes on a horizontal bar. You push this tool into the ground, and larger plugs will be removed from your lawn. This is fairly labor intensive. Or , you can rent a lawn aerator. You want to water the day before you aerate the lawn. Go over your lawn in one direction with the aerator. You can compost the cores, or leave them in your yard as organic matter. After aerating, spread a layer of compost over the yard to help fill in the holes, fertilize and water.
Thatch may not be noticeable in your yard at first, but you will see evidence of it around sidewalks or the edges of your lawn. Thatch occurs when there is a build up of dead grass between the living grass and the soil. It shows up as a brown mat, and can be an inch or more thick. You can test to see if you have thatch by lifting up a chunk of sod. If you see this brown matted layer and it is more than half an inch thick, you will need to de-thatch. This should be done after aerating.
If the thatch layer is not very thick, you can use a metal tined rake, or detaching rake to remove it. This will make you sweat! Push hard with the rake and pull up as much thatch as you can. Be careful not to pull up a lot of the green grass with it. If the thatch is really thick, you can rent a machine to do the work for you. After you have de-thatched the lawn, then apply a slow release fertilizer and water well.
After you have aerated and de-thatched your lawn (if necessary), this is the time to reseed. You have nice holes and fresh compost in the yard for the seeds to take hold in. Grass grows very well during the fall months, and there is less weed competition. Make sure to keep the seedlings moist.
Lawns need water during the fall months as well as those hot summer months. Watering your lawn will help the root system of new seedlings become established, and will help fertilizers sink into the ground.
Take a few days during the fall to pamper your lawn. You will be rewarded with a beautiful jewel green lawn next year!