It’s a consensus among lawn care professionals that the best way to ensure a thick, healthy lawn in the spring is to provide some “TLC” to your lawn in the fall. Many homeowners make the same basic mistakes before grass goes dormant and then wonder why their grass isn’t doing better the following year. Here are some fall lawn care tips to help produce a beautiful lawn next year.
Remove the clutter
A carpet of colorful autumn leaves may look great in your yard and provide fun for children, but it’s not good for your grass. The quilt of leaves blocks light and moisture from reaching the grass, a potentially fatal blow to the lawn below. When leaves start falling, blow or rake them away as often as you can. Even after the trees are bare, continue raking out corners where the wind has piled leaves up, otherwise you’ll find a decaying mat of grass come spring.
Cut at the right height
Don’t put your lawn mower away too early, as grass continues to grow up to the first hard frost. If you let your lawn get too long, it will mat and become vulnerable to fungi like snow mold. Cutting the grass too short is just as bad because it curtails the root system and impedes your lawn’s ability to withstand winter cold and dryness. You’ll want to regularly cut your lawn to an ideal height of 2 ½ to 3 inches for optimal growth next spring.
Many homeowners tend to cut back on watering their lawn as the weather gets cooler. While it’s true that there’s more rain and dew and less evaporation at this time of year, it may not be enough to keep roots hydrated and healthy heading into winter. If your lawn isn’t receiving at least one inch of water a week, keep your sprinklers running until the end of October.
Regular aeration, roughly once every couple of years, prevents soil from becoming compacted and covered with a thick layer of roots, stems and debris that blocks water, oxygen and nutrients from reaching the soil. One of the best times to aerate your lawn is before fertilizing as the holes in your turf will let the fertilizer reach down to the roots. A core aerator will get the job done, punching holes through the thatch and pulling up plugs of soil to allow access to the roots of your lawn.
Just as grass roots need water to survive the winter, your lawn will benefit from a shot of sugars that protect roots from freezing and gives it the energy to bounce back in the spring. Rocky’s recommends a winterization program, featuring Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard Fall Lawn Food, applied in mid-October to late November, to improve your lawn’s ability to absorb water and nutrients and foster the production of chlorophyll. Use caution when spreading fertilizer close to waterways, which are vulnerable to contamination from runoff, and maintain a five-foot buffer wherever water is present.
For Florida customers, Rocky’s Ace Hardware offers Scotts Turf Builder Southern Lawn Food, specially formulated for southern lawns to protect against heat and drought.
Spread the wealth
A dense lawn provides good protection against weeds, which is why it’s important to overseed existing turf. Fall is the best time to overseed because the ground is still warm, moisture is plentiful, the nights are cooler and the sun is not as hot during the day.
Overseeding can be one of the more challenging lawn care duties, because you simply can’t scatter seeds over an established lawn and expect them to take hold. The seeds need to be in full contact with the soil, kept moist until they germinate and be well established before it gets too cold. Rocky’s Ace Hardware offers a variety of seed spreading tools to help you green up your lawn for spring.
Stay on schedule
Each step above must be done at the right time for the best results, otherwise it’s a wasted effort. If you overseed too late, the seedlings will be too tender to survive, while if you fertilize too late, your lawn won’t be able to absorb all those nutrients you’re feeding them. Our Scotts lawn care schedule will help you plan the application of all your Scotts lawn products, so be sure to grab a copy while shopping at our Northeast locations and start preparing for next spring!