Take advantage of cool fall weather to fertilize, control weeds, and improve the health and appearance of your lawn. Follow these lawn care tips to ensure that your lawn performs at its peak for seasons to come.
If you raised the height of your lawn mower in summer to reduce heat stress to your lawn, return the mower deck to its normal mowing height (about 2 inches tall is best for most grasses) in fall. Cutting your lawn slightly shorter in autumn helps prevent the grass from matting down under leaves and snow, which causes unsightly brown patches of snow mold in your lawn come spring.
Adjusting the height of your mower is fairly easy and usually just involves adjusting the height of the wheels. This lowers the cutting deck and therefore allows for a shorter cut. Just remember to adjust all of the wheels to allow for an even cut.
Most lawns need water whenever it’s dry — no matter the season. If drought persists into autumn, water once or twice per week, long enough to soak the soil several inches deep. Early morning is the best time of day to irrigate because winds are usually lighter so you’ll waste less water to evaporation. Avoid watering in the evening because that encourages fungal diseases.
Dry spells in the summer can sometimes leave your lawn soil hard and compacted. In this compacted state precious water that your lawn needs washes away before reaching the root systems. Aeration is the process of punching small holes into the soil to allow air, water, and nutrients to access the roots of your lawn. Aeration reduces thatch, improves drainage, and loosens soil.
When aerating, make sure to wait until the ground is a bit moist before attempting; after a rain shower is usually best. It’ll save you a lot of time and energy to not have to aerate dry soil. Make sure that the aerator you use pulls plugs of soil from the turf rather than simply punching holes in the ground, which actually increases compaction over time. The small plugs that come up should be allowed to dry and then broken up, which can be done by running them under your lawn mower.
If you find that your lawn is patchy, weedy, or discolored, you may have a pH problem in your soil. Lime can be used to restore the pH balance of your soil while supplying needed nutrients to the soil.
Some grass varieties, such as Kentucky Bluegrass, can handle a slightly acidic to neutral pH range. Other varities, like Bermudagrass, prefer slightly more acidity. First test your soil using LusterLeaf Rapitest Soil Test Kit and compare your findings to your lawn type’s prefereed acidity range. If your pH is too low, it can cause moss, bare spots, and weeds to grow in your grass. In this situation, lime helps balance soil pH and creates a better soil environment for your lawn, which significantly reduces these problems.
You can buy lime in two types, pulverized and pelletized. Pulverized lime is powdered lime that works rather quickly in the soil at the expense of ease of application. Pelletized lime can be applied with any broadcast spreader, making it very easy to apply, though it does take longer to work its way through the soil. There are products, such as Pennington® Fast Acting Lime, that goes to work the instant it touches water, so it provides much faster results than regular pelletized lime and covers far more area per bag.
Over-seed thin lawns or large dead areas using Pennington Smart Seed. Keep the newly seeded sections moist while seeds sprout. Frequent light sprinklings are best at first. Gradually increase the interval between waterings to encourage the roots to grow deeper into the soil. To find out which variety of seed will work best for your lawn, visit our Grass Seed page before heading out to buy at the nursery.
Top dressing means applying a thin layer of ORGRO or a similar organic compost over your existing turf. The process improves growing conditions by reducing thatch, increasing the amount of organic matter in the soil, smoothing bumps in the lawn, and lessening the need for fertilizer. Be sure to dethatch or aerate before you apply a top dressing, then work the top dressing into the soil by raking it in. Be sure the organic compost your are using is not a leaf compost, as it will be acidic and throw off the pH balance of your lawn.
Dandelions, clover, and other broadleaf weeds are easy to spot in spring, but fall is the best time to rid your yard of these pests. For large areas you can use products such as Pennington’s UltraGreen Weed N Feed or Bonides Weed Beater Plus. For smaller lawns or for spot treatments, liquid herbicides such as Bonide’s Weed Beater for Lawns or Bayer’s Weed and Crabgrass Killer should do the trick. Be sure to read the label thoroughly for any chemical herbicide before applying to your lawn.