With autumn’s chill creeping in, it’s time to adjust your yard maintenance regimen
Fall yard care can seem like a bit of an oxymoron, considering most greenery will soon go dormant for the winter! The truth is, though, that the best way to ensure a healthy, vibrant lawn come spring is to lay the foundation each fall.
Many homeowners cause stress and damage to their lawns and gardens throughout the autumn months and then wonder why the grass is greener on the other side. This year, to ensure your yard blooms come spring, consider following these five simple steps:
Fertilize your lawn
Take out problematic weeds
Manage fallen leaves
Prepare your gutters
Mow the grass
Fertilize Your Lawn
The secret to fall yard care, including a thick and healthy lawn, lies in well-timed and purposeful fertilization.
A local lawn care company will happily take on the job for a fee but, if you’d prefer to do it yourself, gather materials, plan and stick to a lawn fertilizer schedule, and don’t forget to test the soil before diving in.
You’ll need a handheld, drop or push broadcast spreader and fertilizer bags from the brand of your choice. Then, depending on the type of grass in your yard, personalize your approach.
Warm-season lawns should be fed just before the summer heat so, if your grass includes Bahia, Bermuda, St. Augustine, Centipede or Zoysia, mark your calendar for lawn fertilization in late spring, 2023. In the meantime, this fall, you can gather your materials and consult with an expert, if needed.
If you’ve got a cool-season lawn, made up of Kentucky Bluegrass, Fescue, Bentgrass or Ryegrass, an initial fertilization in late fall, otherwise known as a winterizer, followed by a second pass in early spring is ideal. Cool-lawn owners can complete the winterizer fertilization in the coming weeks and mark their calendars for the spring feeding.
Take out Problematic Weeds
Fall is also a great time to kill stubborn weeds, in both warm- and cool-season turf. Not only does the cooler weather provide an optimal environment for traditionally backbreaking chores, weeding in autumn may actually be the key to eradicating stubborn perennials like clover and dandelion! As such, this step is essential when it comes to your fall yard care to-do list.
Once you’ve located the invaders in question, there are a few different options for removal. Hand-pulling is a classic method but is only effective before the plant has seeded. If you do decide to hand-pull, ensure you wear gloves to prevent any injuries, and always grab at the base and pull out the entire root system. If the job is particularly large, or if you can’t or won’t bend down all day, consider investing in shears, a hoe or other weeding tools to make the job easier on yourself.
Another popular option involves herbicides, or chemicals used to manage and control vegetation. These ‘weed killers’ are generally easy to use and highly effective, and sometimes the only solution when a weed problem becomes particularly severe. If you opt to go this route, be sure to choose the right product, follow the directions closely, and always wear proper protective equipment.
Manage Fallen Leaves
Raking and removing fallen leaves is about more than just aesthetics. After all, loose leaves can block fresh air, water, nutrients and sun, as well as invite pests, disease and mold. Homeowners have a few different options when it comes to leaf management. One popular method of removal is raking, bagging and disposing of leaves. This route is best for smaller yards with loose, dry leaves. Invest in an ergonomic rake to minimize the stress on your back and arms or, if you’re looking for something less intensive, consider a good leaf blower or yard vacuum.
Another option is repurposing leaves, whether for compost or mulch. Begin by chopping up whole leaves with a lawn mower or leaf shredder. Certain handheld vacuums also have shredding capacities. Then, dump the shreds into your compost bin or arrange them in planting beds. Win, win!
Prepare Your Gutters
Clogged gutters can damage both your home and your lawn. A neglected gutter system has the potential to cause pooling water, flooding and erosion throughout your yard. So, if you’re expecting snow this winter or rain this spring, taking some time to properly prepare your gutters and downspouts can make all the difference. To set your water collection system up for success, remove any debris, flush gutters and downspouts with a hose, tend to any clogs, adjust slope, repair leaks and consider adding gutter guards. While the process may be a bit tiring, it’s far better than dealing with mold or even serious foundational issues down the line. While gutters may not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning yard maintenance, an established system can help prevent stagnant water, soil erosion and leakage, setting your lawn up for success come spring.
Mow the Grass
Of course, well-maintained grass is essential in any fall yard care to-do list. Heading into the winter months, tall grasses can become matted and diseased, especially under layers of snow, ice, dirt and other debris. If grass is cut too short, however, lawn roots may be exposed to the elements and damaged. Gradually cutting your grass shorter can help you achieve the perfect balance and reduce disease, pests, winter kill, debris and snow mold. To make this tip work for your yard, begin gradually shortening your mower’s height before each week’s mow. You’ll want to continue mowing on a regular basis until your grass stops growing, likely in early winter. Then, primed for spring, you and your greenery can both head into hibernation!
Top Tips for Fall Yard Care
Snow, ice and even just slightly cooler temperatures can put serious strain on your yard. That’s why thoughtful and comprehensive fall lawn care is critically important. By taking just a few simple steps this autumn, you can help ensure that your lawn and garden are healthy and refreshed come spring. So, before you store that mower away for winter, ensure your yard is truly ready to hibernate.