When the weather starts getting cooler, leaves fall, turf turns brown and weeds finally stop popping up. However, that doesn’t mean you should be done with landscaping: fall is a great time to get your lawn ready for the next year.
Keep the Leaves Off Your Lawn
Thatch from cut grass is bad, but it pales in comparison to the thick mass left by decaying leaves. Keep your lawn raked or blown off through the fall, and make sure the leaves don’t have a chance to gather around trees, fences and other barriers. This will give existing grass the sun exposure it needs to prepare for winter and new grass seed a chance to take root.
Aerate and Fertilize
Your lawn may not grow in the winter, but it can use some help to survive. Some extra nitrogen and additional air around the root structure can help grass store more sugar to weather the cold and get growing again in the spring. Now is a great time to aerate your lawn and put down some fertilizer. Potassium can also add cold weather protection, which is why this nutrient is higher in fall fertilizer formulations. If you want the best results, have the soil tested so you know exactly what you need to add to support the grass.
Keep in mind that the slow growth near the end of the season keeps the fertilizer from integrating into the soil as quickly, increasing the chance it will pollute waterways. If you have a stream or pond on your land, keep the fertilizer at least 5 feet (1.5 meters) from the water.
Stop the Weeds Before They Start
Putting down a layer of pre-emergent weed killer can stop weeds from taking root and growing in the spring. This should be done a couple weeks in advance of fertilizing to prevent interaction between the two.
Don’t Stop Mowing
Although growth slows as temperature drops, grass doesn’t stop growing completely until the first frost. Until then, keep your lawn cut to a healthy height, typically two-and-a-half to three inches for most grasses.
Fill in Bald Spots
This is a great time to fix empty spots in your lawn. If you have just a few minor spots, consider a lawn repair mixture. This contains seed, mulch and fertilizer designed to help the grass take root quickly.
Overseeding may not be as effective over existing grass, especially if you’re trying to integrate cool weather grasses. If you don’t mind the tracks it leaves, a slit seeder will ensure the seeds reach the soil.
Want less upkeep around buildings and fences? Put down some ground cover, like juniper or mondo grass.
Make an End of Season Checklist
There’s no telling when the first frost will come, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead so you can spring into action when it hits.
- Make sure hoses are drained and stored, and cover exposed spigots to protect them from freezing.
- Move fragile potted plants indoors, and have covers ready for plants that can’t resist the frost.
- Prepare your gas-powered equipment for storage. The user manuals for your equipment will have detailed information, but most lawn care devices will at minimum need to be lubricated and completely drained of fuel. If you still have some fuel in storage and it hasn’t been mixed with two stroke oil, it can be safely used in your car.
- Prepare your battery-powered equipment for storage. Most manufacturers recommend removing the batteries and storing them in a climate controlled area.
Where to Buy Lawn Equipment, Parts and Accessories
Repairing your equipment in the fall means you don’t have to deal with the rush at the start of the growing season. When you need parts for your powered lawn and garden tools, talk to the folks at Shank’s Lawn Equipment. They’re a certified dealer for most major commercial and residential lawn equipment brands from MTD to eXmark. No matter where you are in the U.S. or Canada, Shank’s can ship whatever you need to keep your equipment running smoothly. Just visit their website, www.ShanksLawn.com.
Live in South Central Pennsylvania and need to buy some equipment or have your current equipment serviced? Visit their shop, located at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, just off route 11. To get there from I-81, take Exit 10 to Marion.