What are some useful lawn maintenance tips for the fall?

The summer season is quickly slipping away.  Before you know it, the fall will be upon us and the leaves will be falling from the trees. Before heading out to pick up some ornamental pumpkins and your fall decorations, take care of some outdoor chores that will better prepare your lawn for the long winter ahead. 

Most lawn care experts will tell you the best way to ensure a green, healthy and lush lawn in the spring is to take action in the fall. If you need some motivation for the job ahead, just think of how beautiful your home will look when the weather gets warm again with a lush green lawn to complement its curb appeal.

As leaves fall, blow or rake them away as often as you can. Although the color of the leaves may look beautiful and are fun to play in, they are not good for your grass.  They block sunlight and trap moisture, which can cause the grass underneath to die.

Grass grows until the first frost, so continue to cut your grass regularly. If you let it get too long, it will mat and can cause fungus to grow. If you cut your grass too short, it can damage the root system and impede its ability to withstand cold winter temperatures and the dryer air. Ideally grass should be maintained between 2 ½ to 3 inches in height. Besides, regular mowing will also help rid your lawn from those pesky leaves.

It is important to continue watering your lawn.  Although the fall tends to bring rainy days, that is not enough rain to keep the grass roots hydrated and healthy. If your lawn isn’t getting at least an inch of water a week, maintain a routine watering scheduled. You can keep your sprinklers running until the end of October. Just remember by the end of October you will need to disconnect hoses and flush the irrigation system to avoid frozen pipes and spigots.

Aerating your lawn can prevent soil from becoming compacted and will allow water, oxygen and nutrients to get into the root system. Although not many homeowners own a core aerator, which mechanically punches holes through thatch and pulls up plugs of soil, professional landscapers do.  The aerating process is typically part of the fall fertilizing process and can catapult the appearance of your lawn because it allows the nutrients to reach the roots.

Fertilizer provides your lawn with the nutrients and protection it needs to endure the freezing temperatures and to give the entire plant the energy it needs to bounce back in the spring. Fertilizer provides a combination of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium which aid in root growth, disease protection, cold resistance and drought tolerance.

The fall offers the best conditions to seed your lawn.  The ground is still warm enough to germinate the seed, and the season’s moist cool temperatures will promote the growth. However, the seed must be in full contact with the soil and be applied with enough time for the root to be established before the weather gets too cold. A dense lawn can offer protection against weed growth as weeds need soil surface to grow.

Even the best-tended lawns come under attack from weeds. If you’ve ever wondered how weeds get into your lawn, the most common way is through the air.  Many weed seeds have special structures that allow them to float – like dandelions. Birds also carry weed seeds by passing them through their digestive system and dropping them on your lawn. Annoying and resilient weeds can put a damper on your lawn. As part of the lawn ritual weed prevention chemicals should be applied.

While typical thought is to install new plants or bulbs in the spring, the fall is the best season for a new installation or upgrade to your garden and plant beds.  The cooler temperatures and typical moist soil help the development of strong roots. Adding a two to four-inch layer of organic mulch will help new plants keep warm during the winter and can help control water runoff and soil erosion.

The lawn maintenance process requires precise timing to offer the best result, or it is a wasted effort. If you seed too late it will be difficult for the seedlings to survive the winter season. Fertilize too late or too early and it will affect the effectiveness for your grass.

The fall is a busy time for homeowners preparing for school, the holidays and addressing home repairs before the cold weather rolls in.  If maintaining a successful lawn program is too difficult, a lawn care service can be a good alternative. Delegating a few chores to a professional can be the best way to get the job done, and done right.

As with any home project, consult with a professional. The maintenance of your lawn requires an understanding of your lawn, soil conditions and the seasonal temperatures in the region.

Gary Malandro, Owner – Gary’s Landscaping

(718) 761-2475       www.garyslandscaping.com