Most lawn care experts will agree, the secret to next year’s best lawn starts in the fall. That’s right, everything you’ve been doing over the years just might be wrong. In today’s article, you’ll learn everything you need to know to have a remarkable, thick, green, and healthy lawn. If you’re inspired to make your neighbors green with envy while saving time and money, you won’t want to miss this essential guide to Fall Lawn Care.
Fall may not seem like an ideal time to think about lawn care, but according to Steve Daly of Perma-Green, the best lawns are the ones that got some essential treatments and maintenance in the previous fall.
According to Daly, more than ever, people need to get back to spending time with family and friends. A thick, healthy lawn is the perfect venue for family get-togethers!
While a great lawn can help create memories for life, having a great lawn should not take much effort or time. In fact, according to Daly, if you work smart, you’ll likely spend less time working on your lawn and more time enjoying it.
Fall Lawn Care | Most Homeowners make this Critical Mistake.
So when is the best time to get your best lawn ever started? According to Daly, “the best time to get next year’s lawn going is when most people quit…the fall! It’s a common mistake most people make. Many homeowners wrap up their lawn care, such as watering, fertilizing, weed control, and mowing long before the grass goes dormant. This is the time of year that the basics matter the most. Finish strong and you’ll see the fruits of your labor all next year!
While the right lawn care plan is critical to preparing your lawn for the long winter months, this article focuses on Fall Lawn Care tips that you can do yourself with very little effort. It also gives you and your family an excuse to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather and your lawn.
If you haven’t read Daly’s articles, Why Fall Lawn Fertilizer is the Secret to next Years Greenest Grass Ever, or Why Winterizer is the Most Important fertilizer Ever, this might be a good time to do so. Most people ignore the two most significant fertilization treatments of the year. In these articles, Daly shares with you why the best lawns in Northwest Indiana never miss these critical feedings.
But Daly likes things simple, so here are two great reasons:
- Help your lawn store food for the winter
- Ensure that there is enough food stored to encourage rooting and growth in the spring
9 Fall Lawn Care Tips
1. Remove the leaves and let your lawn breath
According to Daly, a lawn covered with autumn leaves may look nice for a day or two, but soon get heavy, discolored, and become difficult to remove. The real issue, though, is they block the sun’s essential energy and trap moisture. While the leaves might look cool initially, they can damage or kill your grass. Imagine running a race and wearing a mask in the final stretch. If you can’t breathe, you may not make it to the finish.
If you don’t keep the leaves maintained, you’ll have a real issue in the spring. The soggy, decayed leaves will become difficult to remove, but worse, you might find your grass is dead.
So when the leaves are falling, frequently rake them into a pile and let the kids have fun playing in them.
2. Mow at the correct height.
Resist putting the mower away for the year. If you are using the right month-by-month lawn care calendar and feeding your grass with the nutrients it needs to survive the winter, your healthy grass will continue to grow until the first hard frost. It can not be over-emphasized the importance of fall and winter fertilizing. In the article, Why Fall Fertiler is the Secret to Next Year’s Greenest Lawn, Daly explains this through an analogy;
“A marathon runner must prepare for months to build the proper reserves and nutrients to endure the physical strain. You would not run a marathon without proper preparation.”
Daly recommends you mow your lawn to around 2½- to 3-inch height. If you let it get too long, it will mat down, leaving your grass vulnerable to fungi, including snow mold. Equally damaging is mowing your lawn too short. This damages the root system. Daly offers this quick rule of thumb, your root depth is proportional to cutting height. This impedes the lawn’s ability to withstand winter cold and dryness. Regular mowing also efficiently removes the leaves which can become time-consuming to remove. Your lawnmower can turn the leaves into soil-enhancing mulch.
While Daly’s offers a range for cutting your lawn, the exact height you should aim for is determined by such factors as soil composition, age, grass type, and the commitment to a lawn care program. Every lawn is different. Perma-Green assigns a dedicated technician to their full-season lawn care customers so that recommendations are accurate.
3. Watering your lawn in the fall is huge!
People often quit watering their lawns in the fall when the weather gets cooler. According to Daly, while you do see more rain and dew, there is less evaporation in the fall. Your lawn needs the right amount of water to be healthy going into winter. The health of your lawn next year depends on correctly watering, mowing, and applying the right fertilizers and weed control from the previous fall.
In the article, Watering Grass Tips | Getting Back to Green in Northwest Indiana, Daly and his Perma-Green Techs outline general rules for watering in different soils, including clay soil, sandy soils, loam soils, new seedlings, and new sod. According to Daly, the soil type or composition is just a starting point, other factors that determine watering are beyond the scope of this article, but as a rule, if your lawn isn’t getting at least an inch of water a week (a rain gauge can keep you on track!) keep the sprinklers going until the end of October. Another useful article for watering is, Secrets to your Best Lawn Ever…Just Add Water.
Daly liked to point out that his Perma-Green technicians are assigned to homeowners with full-season fertilization programs so that they are qualified to coach clients on how much to water based on their lawn’s unique needs. The Perma-Green website has dedicated pages for each county and town that include real-time rain forecasts for each town, watering tips, soil compositions and even specials. Check out your hometown and bookmark it. It will come in handy later!
Click Your Town for Real-Time Rain Forecasts, Watering Guide and Soil Composition
4. Loosen the soil through Aeration
According to Daly, regular aeration prevents soil from becoming compacted and covered with thatch. Thatch is the thick layer of roots, stems, and debris that blocks water, oxygen, and nutrients from feeding your grass. Think of it as having a mask that prevents you from eating, drinking, or breathing. Help!
A good aerator service can develop holes through that thatch while pulling plugs from the soil. Daly recommends aerating a lawn right before fertilizing and should be combined with a full-season lawn care plan to assure this procedure is done with efficiency. Most aeration services are bottle-necked with requests for this service in the fall, so combining it with a full-season lawn plan can assure your lawn receives this significant practice.
5. Fall Lawn Cares MVP | Fall Fertilizer & Winterizer
Daly believes early fall is the ideal time to assess your yard and consider any problems that might require adjustments and renovations. Early fall lawn treatment helps fuel plant growth and vigor. Daly believes it’s important to always look for ways to improve, no matter how green or healthy your yard is.
In the article, Secrets to Lawn Treatments, Daly recommends boosting the lawn with nutrients that include lots of root builders and micronutrients which give the lawn a gorgeous green color. It also helps restore lawn health and build strong roots. Daly believes this is especially significant when you have kids or a pet.
According to Daly, “Below the ground, the roots know that the cold Northwest Indiana winter is coming, and your yard is growing and storing nutrients in preparation for the brutal winter conditions.”
Daly recommends a late-fall application of a slow-release granular. While each yard is different, a 24-0-10 fertilizer is a good example of the type of fertilizer that is common in Northwest Indiana. The numbers indicate the percentage by weight of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Potassium is a significant component because it aids in root growth, disease protection, drought tolerance, and cold resistance. Fertilizers sold in big box stores will often use this as a fertilizer mix to sell to the masses, but Daly points out that professional lawn care services like Perma-Green assess your lawn before determining how much of each nutrient your lawn actually needs.
6. Fall Overseed
Daly believes a thick, dense lawn combined with a weed and feed program is the best defense against weeds. To support this, Daly recommends overseeding existing grass. Not only does that fill in thin spots or bare patches, but it also allows you to introduce the best grass for your lawn. Certain grasses excel in Northwest Indiana. “When selecting a grass for our homeowners, our technicians generally take into consideration the homeowner’s soil composition, the amount of sun, traffic, and other factors.”
Fall is the best time to overseed because the ground is still warm, rain is more common, moisture doesn’t evaporate, and it’s cool at night.
While conditions are right for overseeding, folks should never just broadcast seeds with a spreader and expect grass to grow. Overseeding is one of the fall lawn care tips that can take experience. The seeds need to connect with the soil, be kept wet or moist until germination, and have a foundation before it gets cold. Renting a slit seeder is a better option than broadcasting, but those machines are notorious for tearing up lawns. Overseeding creates is a compelling reason to start a full-season lawn care plan in the fall. Besides preparing your lawn for spring with the right application of fall and winter fertilizers, a complete lawn care company can provide overseeding using the best choice of grass seed.
7. Lawn Pest Control
Insects that live in your lawn can cause serious damage to next year’s lawn. Take care of pests in early fall to avoid next year’s pests. You can apply a pesticide, but companies like Perma-Green can identify and eliminate lawn pests and are trained and certified in handling these treatments. Quite often, services combined with a full-season lawn program can be applied for less than doing it yourself. Why take on the risk of handling pesticides when you can have a pro do it for less?
Perma-Green recommends using environmentally friendly products that will effectively control pests, grubs, and mosquitoes all summer long. Daly suggests using a certified lawn care expert to assure you are controlling pests while keeping your family and the environment safe. His Perma-Green team is certified with the OISC (Office of Indiana State Chemist) to work with fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds, ensuring the safety of your family and pets, truth in labeling, and the protection of our environment.
Fall is also an excellent time to eliminate many types of weeds, so weed control is a beneficial activity as well.
8. Weed Control
Weed control is another fall lawn care tip. When summer turns to fall, weeds start growing like a weed! All jokes aside, the weeds are the opposite of a strong fall fertilizer and winterizer. They steal nutrients to put into their root systems.
Perma-Green recommends controlling certain weeds with herbicides, but Daly cautions using them selectively. Mike Emerson, the Perma-Green technician assigned to my family’s lawn, always ends his treatments by spot spraying individual weeds, rather than treating an entire lawn.
Spring lawn weeds are often the result of what you left in the fall. Daly also cautions against using herbicides on newly seeded lawns. Wait until you’ve had a chance to mow a few times and the grass has thickened.
9. Stay on schedule | Month by month lawn care calendar
Timing is everything when it comes to lawn care. Fertilize too early and your vulnerable grass will get destroyed by the cold. Fertilize too late and the roots of your lawn won’t be able to absorb all the beneficial nutrients you’ve fed them. Aeration demand also spikes in the fall and most professionals can’t take on this critical service because they are committed to supporting their full-season customers. Daly warns against aerating in the spring because you couldn’t get someone to aerate in the fall. Spring aeration creates a perfect condition for weed seeds to get established.
It might sound odd to start when everyone else is finishing, but I recommend starting a full-season lawn care program in the fall. The most important component in creating a healthy, green lawn comes with fall fertilizers, winterization, aeration, and weed & pest control. The best advice I can give you is to find a great lawn care company you can trust and stick to their month-by-month lawn care calendar.
Special thanks to Steve Daly and the Perma-Green family for sharing tips for Fall Lawn Care…..The Experts Guide to Getting Green.
By Jim Jano Janesheski
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