Fall Lawn Care
While it may seem hard to believe, considering the weather, fall is just around the corner – and with it comes several changes in how you should handle your lawn care.
Fall in north Georgia is not exactly an abrupt change, rather it comes on slowly, as the hot weather finally begins to recede through late September and into October. That said, we often experience plenty of warm days in November, so it may take some time for your lawn and the plants surrounding it to undergo significant changes.
That said, sunlight and water also factor heavily into how your lawn and plants react in the fall – for instance, trees begin to change leaf color based on a mixture of temperature, light and water, not just temperature. So don’t be surprised to see changes occur no matter how warm it may be.
We say all that to say that you need to be aware of the season. And you should start treating your lawn and yard accordingly, not just based on outdoor temperatures.
But what is fall lawn care, and how should you be caring for your grass and plants in the weeks ahead? Well, here’s a list of eight tips to get you through the fall and winter and into spring:
- Get to raking – or blowing – or mulching
While red, orange and gold leaves may look beautiful on the branch, they can be a real pain when they’re piled on your grass. And, yes, we know that this is the most obnoxious part of fall lawn maintenance. You spend hours getting every leaf off the lawn and you turn around five minutes later, and it seems as if it’s covered again. Well, it may be frustrating, but it is absolutely necessary to maintain the health of your grass. Leaves block the sunlight and trap moisture against your grass – and both of these factors can absolutely kill the grass underneath. Therefore, you should keep your lawn leaf-free as much as is possible. Or you could rake into piles in a natural area and turn it into mulch. Whatever you do, don’t let it hang out on top of your lawn.
- Cut your grass, just not as short
While your grass may begin to slow its growth rates, you should continue to cut it. Ideally, you should cut your grass to these heights:
Fescue and St. Augustine grass – 2-3 inches
Seeded Bermuda – 1-2 inches
Sodded Bermuda and Zoysia 0.5 – 1.5 inches
Letting your grass grow too long invites fungal growth, while cutting grass too short hurts the root system (which could hurt your lawn during hot/cold extremes).
NOTE: When your grass stops growing, be sure to clean your lawn mower thoroughly (especially the undercarriage) and service it by sharpening the blade and emptying the gas tank.
- Keep the water coming
While it’s true that the weather provides your lawn a break from the heat, it does not keep it naturally watered as much. In fact, September and October are, statistically, two of the driest months of the year. And if your grass is not getting the water it needs, it could still wilt and suffer even during cooler months. Therefore, you should at least keep your irrigation system in full use – or keep hand watering – through at least October. Here’s how much you should water your lawn in the fall:
St. Augustine grass – 3-5 inches every 10-14 days
Fescue grass – 1 inch per week
Bermuda and Zoysia – 1-1.25 inches per week
- Keep the weeds at bay with a pre-emergent
While you may think of weeds as a spring/summer thing, there are plenty that grow in the fall and winter. Therefore, a pre-emergent, applied right before your grass goes dormant (in the case of Bermuda or zoysia) or late in the season (for other types of grass) can help keep the weeds at bay and prep your lawn for a brilliant spring. NOTE: DO NOT apply a pre-emergent to a fescue lawn if you are going to overseed in the fall, as it will prevent the seeds from germinating.
- Seeding may be a good idea
Fall is the best time to seed because of the conditions: warm ground, just enough moisture, hot sun, and cool nights. And overseeding existing turf may help you fill in thin any spots or bare patches – and thus help squeeze out any weeds looking to root in your lawn. However, seeds need to contact the soil and stay watered, otherwise it is pointless. There are several types of seeding machines that can be rented, but be wary and study up on them, as some can chew up existing lawns.
- Time to fertilize
A late-fall application of a slow-release fertilizer can do wonders for your lawn’s health over the winter and prep it for a glorious spring. You should look for a fertilizer that includes plenty of nitrogen, as well as potassium, as they aid in root growth, as well as help protect your grass from disease.
- It’s also a good time aerate
Every other year represents a great opportunity to loosen your soil via aeration. This prevents soil compaction and opens it up to provide necessary water and nutrients to your lawn’s root system. Rent a core aerator and utilize it. It will punch holes through thick soil and any thatch (old grass debris that can also block nutrients from reaching your lawn’s root system) that could get in the way of a healthy lawn.
- Plant new vegetation
If you’re thinking of adding new plants of any kind to your garden or around your lawn, early fall is the best time to do so. The fall weather allows your new plants to establish their root systems without the stresses of supreme heat. Always be mindful of lower rainfall in the fall, however, and make sure your new plants get plenty to drink.
If you follow each of the steps above, you will give your lawn and garden a great chance to thrive through the fall and winter. However, note the schedule of each step and stick to it. If you do them out of order or at the wrong time, you risk actually hurting your lawn. And DO NOT assume this schedule is the same for spring, because there are several things on here you would NEVER do in the spring – such as aeration.
Despite its relative simplicity, it requires determination, commitment, and access to tools and supplies. If that is something that you are not willing to do or are unable to do, perhaps you should look into hiring a professional lawn-care company. There are several options available that can provide you with a lush and healthy lawn and garden year-round with minimal fuss.
Hughes Turf Management has spent years honing lawn management to a fine art, and we are always ready to provide you with the knowledge and assistance to create that perfect lawn right here in north Georgia. So, whether you’ve tried and been defeated by weeds, are just getting started in lawn care or don’t have the time to handle it on your own, please give us a call and let us land a hand today. Contact us at 678-617-1962 and we’ll get started right away.