Fall Healthy Lawn Care Tips
While most people know that spring and summer are important seasons for taking care of their lawns, did you know that the fall is just as important? Here are a few tips for fall lawn care that will help keep your lawn healthy all year long and will help protect water quality.
Mowing Your Lawn
- Three inches is the rule! Keep your lawn three inches high during the fall. It will help hold moisture in the plant, reduce stress and shade out weeds.
- Avoid dumping grass clippings down storm drains or in waterways. Yard waste that finds its way into waterways can cause significant changes in nutrient levels, leading to poor water quality.
- Clip 1/3 of the blade and leave your clippings on your lawn. You’ll need less fertilizer if you leave clippings on your lawn!
- Those colorful leaf “bits” provide much-needed organic matter for your soil. As leaves fall onto your lawn, chip the leaves into smaller pieces by running over them several times with your lawn mower.
- Leaves can also be used as mulch in your gardens beds. Be sure to keep leaves away from storm drains and out of waterways.
- If your mulch is a little thin or absent, add more to flower beds and any other areas where grass and weeds are unwanted. Three inches of double-shredded hardwood or shredded leaf mulch will also help to retain soil moisture, prevent soil erosion, and enhance soil quality.
Feed in the Fall
- Fall is generally the most important time of the year for applying fertilizers.
- Be sure to test your soil if you haven’t done so recently and use your soil test results to determine proper application rates.
- If you fertilize once or twice a year, your fall fertilization should take place in September.
- If you fertilize three or four times a year, you will have two fall treatments-the first just after Labor Day and the second, just before the ground freezes; typically mid-November.
Slow-Release Lawn Fertilizers
- Require fewer applications because they supply plants with a steady supply of nutrients over an extended period of time.
- Natural and Organic
- Fertilizers with 50% or more of the nitrogen as water-insoluble nitrogen (W.I.N.), or the equivalent.
- Protects lakes, streams, and groundwater
Help Your Lawn “Breathe
- Healthy lawns allow air, water and nutrients to reach down into the soil.
- Having less compacted soil will also allow water to soak into the ground and help plant roots grow stronger and deeper into the soil.
- You can help your lawn “breathe” by either renting or having your landscape company use a core aerator on your lawn, and fall is the perfect season to do this.
Time to Patch
- Seed or sod bare patches of lawn to prevent soil from washing into our lakes and streams and to keep the soil from becoming compacted.
- When re-seeding your lawn, loosen the soil in the area with a rake or hoe, apply a thin layer of compost, and then apply the appropriate variety of grass seed and water evenly and regularly.
- Consider covering the newly seeded spots with straw or another product that will help hold moisture in and protect the seeds from being discovered by wildlife.
Pest and Weed Problems
- Homeowners that follow healthy lawn care practices will have fewer weed and pest problems.
- If you must treat for weeds or other pest problems, make sure you know exactly what plant or pest you are trying to eliminate and use a product designed to treat that specific problem.
- Many insects and fungi are very important to maintaining a healthy lawn. Broad-spectrum pesticides end up killing the problem pests and the helpful ones.
- Maintain a 10-25 foot buffer along waterways where you do not use pesticides body and spot treat whenever possible.
- Consider using a corn gluten product to treat for broadleaf weeds. It should be used in the fall and in the spring just after the forsythia bloom.
Cut Back In Spring, Not Fall
- Many perennial plants and ornamental grasses provide vital fall and winter food sources and shelter for native wildlife through the winter and protect soil from wind erosion. Consider leaving these plants standing instead of cutting them back in the fall. Those that need to be cut to promote new growth can be cut back in the spring.
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