As the sun gets lower in the sky and temperatures start to cool off, you don’t have to mow your yard once a week anymore. Your focus turns to raking and blowing leaves after the last one falls from the huge tree in your front yard.
Before you put away all of your yard equipment for the winter, give your yard a thorough once-over with these 10 fall clean-up tips to prepare your lawn for spring.
1. Mow Lower
If you kept your mower higher in the summer, lower your deck to about 2 inches when you have your final two mows before cold weather arrives. This height keeps your lawn’s root system strong enough to return in the spring, and it prevents any matting due to heavy leaves and snow. Don’t cut your grass too short because that might damage the root system.
2. Feed It
Fertilize your lawn before it goes completely dormant as sub-freezing temperatures start to happen. Fertilize anytime between early September and early October so your grass has time to absorb the nutrients. Use a fertilizer specific to your type of grass. Don’t wait too late to fertilize, because you want your lawn to still be active so the roots soak up some extra nutrients to get ready for spring.
Aerate the lawn to let the soil soak up more nutrients from the fertilizer. Aerating pokes tiny holes in the dirt without damaging the grass. The aerator also picks up any ground clutter that might choke your lawn. The holes allow water, oxygen and other essentials to seep into the soil. All of these things strengthen the root systems of the grass so it has an easier time in the spring.
4. Gather the Leaves
Leaves continue to fall long after you stop mowing in late October or early November. Gather up all of the leaves once your trees finish shedding to prevent any musty and moldy spots from forming. Piles of wet leaves during the winter spread diseases that could kill your yard and leave massive bare spots.
5. Continue Watering
Continue watering your lawn until the end of October, which is when night time temperatures may start to get near freezing. Your lawn should get about 1 inch of water per week up until that point. If it doesn’t get enough moisture from rain, turn on the hose or irrigation system on the weekends until your yard gets the water it needs. Winterize your spigots and irrigation system at the end of October to prevent any frozen pipes after the temperatures drop.
Fall is the perfect time to level your yard. Add some loose soil in that spot that just doesn’t drain properly, and then seed it thoroughly. Some of the grass you just covered up might pop through the new layer of soil in the spring, and that only strengthens that patch of lawn. Loosen the soil, add a soil amendment, and then start to seed the area.
Overseeding means spreading plenty of grass seed in the early fall as you perform the rest of this lawn maintenance. The aeration, fertilizer and watering allow the root systems of the seeds to develop just enough for them to take hold before the spring. After you mow the yard a bit shorter than usual, make a pass with the spreader. Then make a second pass at a 90-degree angle to the first one. This gives any sparse patches, including the level spot you just made, plenty of seed to create a thick carpet in the spring.
8. Kill Any Weeds
Fall time is ideal for killing any weeds. That’s because weeds, just like the grass in your lawn, begin to absorb more nutrients as the plants prepare to store food for dormancy. Use each herbicide according to package instructions, and make sure you don’t overdo it and kill parts of your lawn. If you want to zap dandelions for good, September and October are the times to do it, so long as the temperatures stay above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
9. Plant Bulbs
Do you want a lush spring garden that pops with brilliant colors? Fall is when you should plant any bulbs in the ground. Just like the roots of the grass, roots from the bulbs spread out in the fall and winter as the plant gets ready for spring.
10. Winterize the Outdoors
Once you’re done with the lawn portion of the program, it’s time to winterize your patio and your tools. Pick up any toys and tools that normally lay out during the warm months. Winterize your mower, leaf blower, weed eater and motorized aerator. Stabilize the fluids in each item, and disconnect the spark plugs on any motors to prevent any electrical shortages or accidental starts.
When you winterize your lawn in the fall, you get amazing results six months later. Take the time to do it right during a weekend or two in October and see what happens. Your lawn will thank you.