Before bitterly cold temperatures set in and your grass goes dormant, get your lawn in shape. Taking the right actions in the fall can help grass survive tough winter conditions and thrive in the spring.
Decide How to Deal With Leaves
If your yard has deciduous trees, the grass probably gets covered with a bed of leaves each fall. Allowing leaves to stay there can keep the grass from getting enough sunlight. If the leaves get wet, they can make the lawn susceptible to disease.
There are several ways to handle fallen leaves. You can rake them, collect them in bags and dispose of them, but there are easier solutions that can save you time and energy and benefit your lawn. You can collect leaves and use them for compost, or you can chop them up with a mulching mower and leave the clippings on the ground so nutrients can enrich the soil. Whether you decide to rake or mow leaves, do it when the leaves and the ground are dry.
Give Your Grass the Right Amount of Water
When your lawn isn’t actively growing, it doesn’t need as much water. You’ll have to adjust your watering schedule in the fall to accommodate your lawn’s changing needs.
In autumn, use a pre-emergent herbicide so weeds can’t get a foothold. Treating your lawn before winter means it won’t be covered with weeds next spring.
Fill in Bare Spots
If your yard has any bare spots or areas where grass is sparse, spread seed in the fall, then give the lawn plenty of water. That will help it become established and develop strong roots before winter.
When soil is compacted, aerating can help. The process involves creating holes in the ground so water, air and nutrients can get down to grass roots.
If you have cool-season grass, aerate the lawn in early fall, then follow up with fertilizer. If you don’t have an aerator attachment for your lawn mower, you can rent an aerator.
If you have a cool-season species of grass, apply fertilizer in the autumn. That will encourage the grass to store nutrients in the roots, which will help the lawn make it through winter and then turn a vibrant green once spring returns.
Cut the Grass Short Before Winter
Continue to mow your lawn until it’s no longer growing. Each time you cut the grass in the fall, lower the setting on the mower so the grass is a little shorter than it was the last time. Trimming the grass down in the fall makes it less susceptible to snow mold and increases air circulation, which keeps excess moisture from accumulating.
Consult a Local Expert
Weather patterns vary from one region to another, and different grass species have different needs. If you have questions or need advice, contact your local extension office or a landscaping professional in your area.