What lawn care steps should I take in the Fall to give me the best bang for my buck?
Written by: Ben Miller
We've probably all heard from parents, friends, and even random passer-bys what we should be doing to take care of our lawns. There are many things that are recommended, suggested, or just rumored to help. So how do you, the concerned consumer, know what's best?
I'm going to briefly cover the steps that you can take every Fall to have a strong, healthy yard come Spring. Keep in mind that you don't have to do all of these, but it certainly helps. For efficiency's sake I'll list them in order starting with the most effective down to what is not necessary but nice to do.
Aerate Your Yard
By far the most effective thing you can do is aerate your yard. It releases the pressure from walking, mowing, etc. over your yard all year, and will allow water, nutrients, oxygen, and fertilizer down into the soil much more effectively. In fact, when combining aeration with another suggestion (applying fertilizer) you can get extra benefits from the synergy of the two. If you want to go even further, just after aeration is a great time to perform some over-seeding.
For our climate here, it's best to do this in the fall. The cooler temperatures will avoid heat stress and will greatly reduce the chance of weeds moving in.
You can aerate your lawn yourself by renting an aerator from your local rental shop, or you can hire a lawn care company to do it for you for a reasonable cost and zero effort on your part. Optimally, you'd want be sure that the aerator is actually removing plugs of soil as opposed to just poking spikes into the ground. (And just let those little soil poops dissolve naturally over the next couple of weeks)
Remove Leaves Quickly
This should go without saying, but you need to take care of your leaves promptly. Letting them pile up creates big problems that are completely avoidable. You won't have to worry about leaves killing spots of your yard and possibly encouraging mold growth if you periodically mulch or remove them from your yard.
As long as you don't have too many trees or your trees have smaller than average leaves, you can simply mulch them up frequently and they'll provide some great nutrition for your grass and other plants. That being said, the optimal plan involves a combination of mulching and removal. For instance, mulch the first few times, and then do removal the rest of the season.
Some people apply fertilizer throughout the year, and if you want the absolute healthiest yard available that is definitely recommended. However, if you're interested in getting the best bang for your buck, you just need to apply it in the Fall. This application delivers much needed nutrients to your soil in order to strengthen your lawn for the upcoming winter. Look for bags of fertilizer labeled 4-1-2 (meaning 4% Nitrogen; 1% Phosphorus; 2% Potassium) for the Fall, and I recommend using a simple drop spreader for more uniform distribution of the product.
You should keep mowing throughout the season, and as the season approaches an end, gradually lower your mower deck until you mow at the lowest setting for the final cut. This allows leaves to be blown off more easily and allows the sun and nutrients to reach the crown of the leaves for maximum health and growth in the spring.
If you're following the recommendations from the leaf section above, this should already be taken care of anyway.
Specially Fertilize Brown Spots
If your yard has brown spots from pets or just rough weather, you can use a "Lawn Repair Fertilizer" on these problem areas to help ensure a healthy lawn next year. These fertilizers contain a grass seed, fertilizer, and organic mulch all in one package making it extremely easy to use.
I recommend using a garden rake to "open up" the soil before sprinkling a liberal amount of the fertilizer on it. This helps the seeds and fertilizer get to where it will be most effective with very little effort.
If you have any questions about this, give me a shout, you can email me here: Ben@yslawncare.com