Winterizing your lawn
As summer fades, it's easy to put the mower away and forget about yard work. Take advantage of fall's cooler temperatures to prepare your yard for winter – and next spring. Certain tasks completed in the autumn can lead to greener, thicker grass next season.
It's recommended that your mower be set at three to three-and-half inches during the regular mowing season. Mow as usual during the fall to retain the nutrients in the blades of grass. As fall comes to an end, lower the mower to two-inches to two-and-a-half-inches for the last few cuttings of the season.
The shorter length keeps moisture from gathering between the blades of grass that can result in diseases in the spring. It also prevents them from bending over on top of each other when snow falls. Such matting also can cause disease.
Leave the grass clippings on the lawn during the last mowing, as the nutrients benefit your lawn. Mulching mowers make this task particularly easy, as the clippings are finely shredded.
After the season's final mowing, drain the gasoline out of the mower. Have it serviced and the blade sharpened now, so it's ready to go in the spring.
Thatch and leaves
More than just grass clippings, thatch is an accumulation of roots, stems, dead grass and other plant debris at the base of the grass. Heavy raking removes this thick and tangled barrier, so air and water can reach the soil.
Lawn aeration helps lawns with hard, compacted soil. By removing small plugs of soil, aeration allows water, light and air to reach the roots. Aeration and dethatching both allow fertilizer nutrients to better penetrate the soil and strengthen the roots.
Leaves left on top of the grass can smother your yard by blocking light and limiting air circulation. Rake them up regularly throughout the season. To maximize your effort, compost the leaves for next year's mulch.
Even though the grass may be going dormant, pesky weeds can still sprout up. Keep next year's weeds to a minimum by applying a broadleaf weed control treatment now.
Repair bare spots by reseeding. Autumn usually has enough rain and warmth for the seed to germinate. Planting grass seed in September allows the grass to germinate and become established this year. However, determine if falling leaves and subsequent raking will disturb the area that's being seeded. If so, wait until spring to reseed those areas.
To reseed bare spots, dethatch and rake the areas thoroughly. Loosen the soil to a depth of about one-inch. Apply the proper amount and type of lawn fertilizer.
Use a grass seed blend that's specifically suited for the location, such as a shady or sunny mix. Sow the seed sparingly by hand to avoid wasting seed and money. Water regularly until the new grass is about three inches tall.
Grass seed also can be planted later in the autumn. The seeds go dormant when winter arrives and snow cover won't harm them. The seeds then germinate in the early spring when temperatures and rainfall are again favorable.
Adequate watering of the entire lawn in the fall, about one-inch weekly, ensures the grass has enough water to overwinter. A good soaking also activates the fall application of fertilizer.
If you live in an area that has a mild winter with little rain or snowfall, the lawn may need water at times throughout the winter months. Watering isn't needed in areas with snowfall and winter rains.
In cold temperature climates, drain your irrigation system and outdoor faucets to avoid broken pipes. Properly store garden hoses and sprinklers.
Southern States Cooperative welcomes your fall lawn tips for a greener lawn next spring. Share them here.