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By the time fall rolls around, most people’s minds are on football, chili-cook-offs, and scenic aspen drives­–and not so much on tending to their lawns.  It’s tempting this time of year to put away your lawn care tools and forgo yard work.  However, fall is actually a very important season for lawn care.  In autumn, your lawn needs extra TLC—both to recover from the stress of summer heat, as well as to prepare for the long, chilly winter ahead.  If you are willing to put in the effort this autumn to practice restorative lawn care and prep for the winter, you can be rewarded in the spring with a lush, green and healthy lawn.

Here are six lawn care tips for fall and best practices to follow to keep your landscape pristine:

Continue irrigation with less frequent, deep watering.

It is just as important to continue watering your lawn in the fall as it is in spring and summer, especially if it very dry.  However, frequent, shallow watering just won’t do the job.  The key is to water your lawn less frequently (once or twice a week) but focus on soaking deep down to the roots.  A rule of thumb is that most lawns need about an inch of water a week; apply a half inch of water each time you irrigate to make sure the moisture is getting deep into the soil.  You can use a rain gauge to determine how much moisture your lawn is getting.  Always water early in the morning, when there is less wind, to prevent the water from evaporating.  Never water in the evening, as it can promote fungal disease in your lawn.

Continue mowing, but gradually shorten your blade.

Although your grass is likely not growing as fast as it was in the spring, your lawn will still need some trimmings during the fall season.  But unlike spring and summer when lush, longer grass was in fashion, fall is the time to start gradually shortening the blade height on your mower.  Ultimately, you want to prepare your grass to be cut fairly short by the time winter rolls around.  Long grass can get matted underneath snow, which creates a breeding ground for snow mold, a type of fungus, so you want to prevent this situation by cutting the grass shorter before winter.  However, you never want to cut more than a third of the blade of grass off at once, as this can shock the grass.  Instead, gradually start lowering your mower’s blade, dropping the blade to the lowest setting for the final two mowings of the year.

Rake & Mulch Leaves

A scattering of leaves on the lawn may look pretty at first, but leave them on your lawn for too long for too long, mix in some rain, and suddenly you’ve got a thick mat suffocating your grass and breeding fungal disease.  The best way to prevent this situation is to remove leaves regularly from your lawn this time of year, either by using a rake or a mulching mower.  The mower will work well for small piles of leaves but if you have an especially large amount of leaves, you may consider raking them off the lawn and then composting them.

Aerate in Autumn

Autumn, with its cooler temperatures, is an especially good time of year to aerate your lawn. Aeration, the process of perforating the ground and removing little plugs of land, allows oxygen, water, and fertilizer to flow deep down to the grass roots. It helps break up compact soil and removes excess thatch, two factors that can prevent the flow of nutrients to the root base.  Aeration also helps optimize the performance of other lawn care practices, such as fertilization.

In preparation for aerating your lawn, water the day before to soften the soil and remove all visible weeds.  Examine the high traffic areas in your yard in particular for compact soil and plan to hone in on these spots.  Finally, plan to aerate just before you fertilize your lawn for optimal results.

Seed or sod bare spots

Early to mid September can be a great time to tend to any bald or thinning spots on your lawn.  Overseeding—the process of introducing new, healthy grass to — keeps your lawn “young” and can help prevent weeds from forming in the future.  If you have already aerated your lawn, the pocket size holes are the perfect space into which to drop seedlings.  Laying sod is another good, early fall alternative to repair the bare spots on your lawn.  Whether you should seed or sod depends on a variety of factors; a good consultation with a landscape professional may be just what you need, or better yet, let us take care of this service for you.

Give your lawn a final feeding

Fall is prime time for fertilizing your lawn.  The extra nutrients will increase nitrogen storage, promote recovery from the stresses of summer, and help your lawn green up a little earlier in the spring.  In late October or November, look for a slow-release winterized fertilizer and make sure to follow the directions very carefully when applying. Finding the right fertilizer for your lawn’s unique needs can be tricky. Too much fertilizer can lead to yellow or brown patches of dried out grass.  When in doubt, hire professionals to assess your soil situation and make recommendations.

As you can see, fall is a crucial season to practice good lawn care.  Your lawn needs extra attention this time of year if you want a beautiful, lush yard come spring.  If you’d rather spend your fall watching football and eating chili, we understand! We’d love to give you more time on the weekends to spend with family and friends without sacrificing a great-looking lawn in the process. We’re happy to step in so you can sit back and relax.  Just give us a call at Detailed Landscaping and we’ll handle all the “details.”  Happy Fall!