The worst of the summer heat will have subsided soon. Refreshed by the thought of breathing cooler air, you're poised to roll up your sleeves and do some fall lawn care. But you should read these tips first. The regimen right for your situation will vary, according to whether your lawn is composed of a warm season turf grass or a cool season turf grass. If you are unsure which type comprises your lawn, take a sample to your local county extension.
Find Out Your Grass Type
Cool-season turf grasses are so called because they thrive in the cool weather usually associated with spring and autumn. Examples are rye grass, the fescues (both "fine" and "tall" kinds), Kentucky blue grass and bent grass.
By contrast, warm-season turf grasses grow most actively when the weather is warm, which is why they are the preferred grass types of the South in the U.S. Some of their names even make you think "South," as is the case with Bermuda grass and Saint Augustine grass. Other kinds include zoysia grass and buffalo grass.
To be sure, there will be some fall lawn maintenance you'll have to do regardless of the type of grass on your lawn. Let's look at these tasks first:
Correct soil pH
: if your lawn is not performing well, have your soil tested. If the soil test should show a need to reduce acidity
, apply lime now. If alkalinity
needs to be reduced, apply sulfur.
Thatch removal: dethatch
your lawn, by raking; for bad cases of soil compaction
, you may have to employ the technique known as core aeration
, for which lawn equipment known as "aerators" can be bought or rented
Rake leaves, or use a leaf vacuum
, lest the leaves smother your grass over the winter
• Lawn equipment care: make sure to drain old gas out of lawn mowers after last mowing
The nature of the following fall lawn care chores depends on whether it's a cool season or warm season turf grass that you have to care for:
• Watering during hot, dry spells
• Setting lawn mower height
Fall lawn care for cool season grasses includes ensuring that lawns receive enough fall water to carry them through the long winter. Don't think that because the temperatures outside are no longer consistently high, you can totally forget about watering in the autumn. Overall, you won't need to water nearly as much as in summer, but during hot, dry spells in autumn, remember to provide sufficient water.
Another fall lawn care tip that applies specifically to the maintenance of cool season grasses is fertilization. Apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Or purchase a product that has a low middle number for NPK
; for example, Scotts' "WinterGuard" Turf Builder has an NPK of 32-0-10.
Conversely, avoid fertilizing a warm season turf grass in the autumn. The latter undergoes a hardening-off process during this time of year to prepare it for winter. Fertilizing warm season grasses in the fall may interfere with that hardening-off process.
So what fall lawn care tasks should you be performing for warm season grasses? By overseeding with annual winter ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), homeowners whose lawns are composed of warm season grasses can enjoy a green carpet during the winter, instead of having to look at a brown lawn. But when you buy the seed, be sure to ask for the annual, not the perennial. Annual winter ryegrass will die back when summer's heat returns, turning over the lawn once again to the warm season grasses. This exit is a timely one. The problem with the perennial winter ryegrass is that it doesn't go away, competing with your warm season grasses for sunlight, water and nutrients.
Lawns composed of cool season grasses can also profit from overseeding. But in this case, the motivation behind overseeding lawns
is not winter cosmetics, but to fix bare patches -- with an eye to next