By the time fall comes to Nevada County, pleasant springtime memories of fresh-mown grass smell have long passed. Still, you must get the grass ready for winter, especially if you’re planning to put the house up for sale next spring. Fall is the best time for lawn care, so when it comes to planning your autumn projects, add these to the list.
1. Adjust the Lawn Mower Blade
When cutting the grass in late September or early October, set the mowing blades a bit shorter than usual. Lower the blade to the shortest recommended height for your variety of grass. That will help keep grass from matting underneath winter snow, but the turf will be high enough for the roots to stay firmly planted in the soil. Preventing thatch and matting allows snow-covered grass to remain healthy, and leads to a thick, full lawn in March, April, and May.
The leaves are changing, and that means it’s time to fertilize the grass. If you haven’t done it this year, test the soil to determine its acidic balance; this lets you know what type of fertilizer to use. The pH scale is from 0 to 14; anything less than 7.0 is acid, and anything above 7.0 is considered alkaline. Whether you choose soil amendments, organic, or chemical fertilizers, they must be the proper types for the grass in your yard. Buy a soil testing kit or contact your local cooperative extension service.
Speaking of soil, it needs to breathe. Soil compaction occurs in areas where kids are playing, dogs are running, riding lawn mowers are sitting — you get the idea. Compacted soil stops air and water from reaching the roots. (Even those squirmy earthworms can’t get very far!) Fertilizer won’t soak in very well. In short, compacted soil is bad for grass.
Aerating the lawn provides air that lets grassroots thrive. You can do it yourself by hand, but really, the best way to aerate the yard, especially a large one, is to hire a landscaper with the right kind of equipment. Hundreds to thousands of small, cork-like plugs of dirt are removed from the ground, allowing the grass to spread, thicken and breathe.
The type of grass and condition it’s in determine reseeding requirements, but in any case, this project is better for autumn than in spring. September is ideal for overseeding cool-season and warm-season grasses. If you live in an area prone to snow, you’ll want to reseed the entire lawn before the first frost. For warmer climates, reseeding the dead and bare patches should bring a nice green carpet, come springtime.
5. Weed Control
The first thing to remember is that weeds will never completely go away, so don’t make yourself crazy over it. But you can control the first outset in spring by applying a pre-emergent herbicide in the fall. It can give you a head start on next spring’s weed-reducing efforts. Follow the directions carefully.
As if this weren’t enough, here are a couple more autumn yard projects for you. Rake and remove fallen leaves so they won’t create a thick mat that will suffocate your lawn over the winter. Continue to water the lawn if you’re not seeing enough rainfall — if it hasn’t entered dormancy, grass should get an inch of water per week.
One thing to note: If you start a project too late in the season, your efforts are wasted. The grassroots will need time to absorb the nutrients from fertilizer. Tender plant seedlings from reseeding won’t survive the cooler temperatures. For a healthy lawn in spring, develop a fall schedule, and stick to it.