As we enter fall, many people back off on lawn care.
The summer is over, the grass is not growing as fast, and we have longer and cooler nights. We are thinking about getting kids to school, and even breaking out the skiing equipment to ready it for the snows which are only a couple of short months away.
The problem is, fall is a key time for lawn heath; ignoring it puts your grass at risk not only for the winter months but also for the following spring.
Consider what Dr. Tony Koski, Turf Specialist at Colorado State University, say about watering lawns in the fall:
“Lawn watering is often stopped in early fall. Conventional thinking is that because ET (evapo-transpiration) rates are low and the turf isn‘t growing much, it is OK to stop watering. However, historic ET and rainfall data for most of Colorado shows a need of 0.5 to 0.75 inch of irrigation per week during September and October.
While mowing isn‘t needed as frequently during fall, the turf DOES continue to grow – but in ways that differ from spring and summer. Turfgrasses form tillers (side shoots) and rhizomes that increase the density of fall turf. This is an important time for turf to “heal” after a stressful summer, especially if it has been worn down by traffic or suffered from disease or insect problems.
Fall watering is essential for late season nitrogen applications to work most effectively. Fertilizer applied to dry turf is less likely to enhance fall rooting and increase energy storage. Be sure to water in fall fertilizer applications, often considered the most important application of the year.
Fall is the best time of year to control perennial broadleaf weeds – dandelion, clover, bindweed, plantain, and thistle, to name a few. Fall herbicide applications are more effective when applied to healthy, green, actively growing weeds. The herbicide is more easily absorbed and moved to weed roots resulting in better control.
Finally, fall watering of lawns that were damaged by winter mites (clover mites, Banks grass mites) is essential for discouraging mite activity this upcoming winter and reducing potential mite problems.”
As you can see from one of the leading turf experts in not only the State of Colorado, but the entire United States, ignoring lawns in the fall is one of the worst things for grass health.
To keep your grass happy and heathy, follow these tips:
Do not stop watering too early: continue to water regularly into October – this will allow the turf to recover from the summer, start to fill in damaged areas, and push back the emergence of winter mites.
Mow: Continue to mow as the yard needs it and keep grass length to about 2½ to 3 inches. When mowing never remove more than ⅓ of the grass blade. Cutting off too much of the blade puts the yard under a great deal of extra stress.
Fertilize: Unless you are using a slow release fertilizer that feeds the yard over the entire summer, get a fall fertilization. This will promote growth at a time when the lawn is trying to recover from the summer and build a good base for the following year.
Weed: Fall is the time to get rid of weeds. The weeds that hardened off during the heat of summer are opening up more and are easier to kill. Destroying them now, all the way down to the root level, means fewer weeds next year.
Aerate: If you have a yard with high traffic, fall is a good time to aerate to relieve the soil compaction. Compacted soil prevents moisture and nutrients from getting to the roots and prevents the roots from breathing. Grass trying to grow in highly compacted soil cannot recover properly.