Fall is the perfect time to get your lawn prepped for spring — and September is the month to do it.
Most homeowners ignore their lawns in the fall but the cooler weather is fantastic for your grass. During this time of year, your lawn is actively storing water, nutrients and generating energy so it can make it through a long winter. If you take care of it now, you’ll have a healthier, lusher looking patch of green in the spring.
Now is the time to lower the blade on your mower. I keep mine between three and three-and-a-half inches during the warmer months. In the fall, it is time to drop it down to two inches to allow more sunlight to get to the crown of the grass. There are a couple of things to remember — never cut off more than one-third of the blade length at a time. This is really hard on the grass. You can lower the mower once by a third, and then again by a third in the second cutting. If you have a bagging option, now is a good time to put it on. By removing some of the cut blades of grass, often called thatch, you allow better airflow around the crowns of your lawn.
Aerating in the fall is also a great solution for getting oxygen, moisture and nutrients to the roots. The best aerators remove plugs of soil that are three inches long. This is the perfect depth to reach the roots below the ground.
Feeding the lawn in the fall is actually more important in my mind than doing it in the spring. The fall fertilizer helps the roots grow below the soil, encouraging an earlier and deeper flush of green grass once the snow melts. Look for fertilizers like a 0-6-6 combination. Make sure to avoid a fertilizer with a high first number, as this encourages more leaf growth above ground. Instead, get a high middle and last number. This promotes root growth and improves the overall health of your lawn.
I wait until early October for my last fertilizing of the year.
I like to top-dress the bald spots in my lawn at the end of September. The occasional rainfall and the cooler temps are perfect for seed starting. When buying your grass seed mix, also get a bag of topsoil. By blending the two before you spread the mix on the lawn, you get a higher rate of germination of the seeds because you’ve ensured the seed-to-soil contact that they need to grow.
Weeds are also getting ready to go through the winter months. This makes them extra susceptible to herbicides and natural treatments as they are in full absorption-mode. Just be careful and follow the instructions on whatever weed solution you decide to go with and wait until the end of October to apply. This is extra important in the areas that you’ve planted new seeds so they have a chance to get better established.
Finally, rake those leaves. Getting the leaves off the lawn before they become a wet mat that smothers your lawn is so important.
Try these steps and you’ll be the envy of the neighbourhood with the greenest and happiest lawn on the block.