Lawn Care Tips From the Pros for Winter and Fall
With the cool autumn air sweeping out the heat of summer, many homeowners have turned their attention to seasonal tasks such as clearing gutters, winterizing pipes, and adding a layer of insulation to their attics.
For many, lawn care may no longer be top of mind. But it should it be, say landscaping experts, who advise that fall, and even winter, are important times for continued maintenance of your lawn. “Take advantage of cool fall weather to fertilize, control weeds, and improve the health and appearance of your yard,” writes Denny Schrock for Better Homes & Gardens.
From watering to overseeding to attacking perennial weeds, the fall months, and going into winter, are prime times for lawn TLC.
“Fall is the best time to fertilize your lawn if you live in the North. Cool-season grasses, such as bluegrass, fescue, and ryegrass, respond well to feeding in early September and again in late fall (late October or November),” according to Better Homes & Gardens. “It helps them green up earlier and look better in spring. Avoid fertilizing dormant warm-season grasses in the South unless they have been overseeded with winter ryegrass.”
HGTV’s Paul James, also known as “The Gardener Guy,” offers similar tips in this video for mowing, mulching, fertilizing, and generally preparing your lawn for the cold winter months. Among other things, he encourages homeowners to raise the blades on their mowers in the fall months because “roots will grow as deep as grass is tall,” which is important in the winter months when the ground is harder and colder.
Aaron Dostie, co-owner of Augusta, ME-based Turf Doctor, is also an advocate for fall lawn care. Here are his five tips for homeowners:
- Aerate: “What does aeration do? It relieves compaction, it improves root growth, adds oxy to the soil, and increases fertilizer uptake.”
- Apply winter fertilizer: “You want to purchase a bag that has high potassium. That’s the most important part of a winterizer fertilizer. The extra potassium in the fertilizer gives the lawn the extra carbohydrates that it needs to survive through the winter and give you that early spring green-up.”
- Mow height: “In order to get the best possible color out of your lawn, it is critical to mow at 2 and three-quarters to 3 inches, and the reason being is that if it’s too high you’re going to have a lot of thatch in the spring. Also you’re going to have a high potential for snow mold because of all the leaf tissue that was left in the fall.”
- Pick up your leaves: “Do not mulch them into the lawn. The reason is, leaves are acidic. Thus it will drop your pH. If the pH is too low, fertilizer will not be taken up by the plant; you’ll have very little growth and a lot of disease problems.”
- Soil pH: “Ideal pH for cold season grasses is 6.5 – 6.8. The pH of your soil is important in order to have maximum fertilizer uptake and very little disease problems.”
Unlike Dostie, HGTV’s James is a fan of mulching.
“If you have lots of deciduous trees around, you’re going to need to do something about the leaves,” says James. “Your best bet, assuming all your seed is germinated, is a mulching mower. These babies have the power to shred leaves into tiny particles, which then decompose in the lawn and in the process add both organic matter and essential nutrients to the soil,” he adds.
When in doubt, do what works best for your lawn through trial and error. Whatever you do, don’t ignore your lawn this fall.