Fall Lawn Care Tips by Jarrod Krull, Yardcare.com Agronomist
While many homeowners look forward to less time behind their mower at the end of the summer, fall provides an opportunity to set the conditions that will give your lawn a head start come next spring. Cool-season lawns benefit the most from fall activities such as fertilization and aeration while moderate fertilization and weed control help increase spring vitality for warm-season grasses.
Cool-season grasses benefit the most from fall fertilization, as the turf is busy storing energy during this time that will help the lawn over winter and spur spring growth. Dr. Van Cline, agronomist for The Toro Company, recommends applying two thirds of the annual nitrogen fertilizer requirement during the fall season for cool-season lawns.
The opposite is true for warm-season grasses, as they require greater quantities of nutrients during late spring and early summer when they are most actively growing. Cooler fall temperatures provide warm-season grasses the opportunity to increase root production while overall shoot and leaf development rates decline. While nitrogen fertilization is recommended for warm season grass in the fall, it should be limited to quantities that will keep the plant active, but not generate succulent growth that has the potential to foster winterkill.
Your local cooperative extensionist or a garden center expert can help provide you with the tools necessary to test your soil fertility and recommend a fertility program that will optimize your fertilizer applications throughout the year.
Aeration stimulates root growth and improves nutrient uptake Fall is the best time to aerate cool-season turf as the grass plants will quickly heal from the coring action of the aerator - especially with the help of fall fertilization and irrigation programs. Aeration allows oxygen, water, and nutrients to penetrate further into the soil, encouraging deeper root and reducing soil compaction that restricts root growth - especially during the hot summer months when healthy roots are needed to help cool-season grass survive stress conditions.
For warm-season turf, aeration is best performed in the late spring to early summer in conjunction with increased fertilizer application that help support its active warm weather growth habit.
One of the drawbacks from aeration is the production of cores that will litter your lawn. While the cores will break down over time, the use of a mulching mower will help break up the cores more quickly and provide a 'topdressing' for your lawn.
Some weeds are better controlled in the fall Common, yet troublesome winter annual weeds such as henbit and chickweed germinate during the fall and overwinter as juvenile plants. By applying a post-emergent herbicide in the fall, winter annual weeds are more easily controlled and won't have the chance to mature come springtime.
Likewise, perennial broadleaf weeds such as dandelion and clover will also have a flush of vegetative growth during periods of cooler temperatures. Controlling these weeds in the fall will help improve overall turf density while reducing spring weed populations.
Remember that not all herbicides are lawn-safe. Choose a herbicide that is effective against the types of weeds present in your lawn. The product label is your guide to effectiveness, application rate and timing and, most importantly, safe use and disposal guidelines.