It’s the end of the growing season, and that means you can forget about lawn care for a few months. However, before you put your equipment in storage, there are a few things you may want to do to ensure a healthy lawn next spring.
Keeping your lawn leaf-free may be a lot of work, but it will reduce the number of bald spots that show up next year.
Leaves can be mulched, but how much material can be cut down depends a lot on the type of leaves and the condition of the ground. As a general rule, if you can’t cut the leaves down into 1/2 inch pieces with two passes of your mower, at least some of the leaves will need to be raked.
If you need to rake, it will be easiest when the ground is at its driest. If you have a riding mower or tractor, a yard sweeper can turn an arduous job into a fast one. No matter which tool you choose, dumping the leaves on a large tarp will make them easier to load into bags and trailers.
The shorter the grass is, the easier it will be to aerate and fertilize your lawn. Try to get the height down between one to one-and-a-half inches, but don’t take off more than a third of the total length at a time: cutting smaller lengths reduces stress on the grass, keeping it healthy.
Once newly planted grass has sprouted, let the grass reach three inches again, then trim it back until it’s at one-and-a-half inches for the final mow of the season. When it snows, the reduced grass to snow contact will help prevent fungal damage.
Aeration breaks up compacted soil, letting air and water reach the root system. Aerating should be done when the soil is moist: if it’s too dry, the tines will have trouble penetrating the hard soil, and if it’s too wet, the soil will collapse into the holes left behind. Make a couple passes to ensure you’re covering areas that may be compacted by the aerator as it rolls along the ground.
The difference between a weed and a desirable plant depends a lot on your particular lawn, and these weeds can include grasses that don’t match with the overall ground cover. That means a blanket treatment would kill all the grass, desirable and undesirable, and since grass is perennial, those same weeds will keep coming back year after year.
Fall is the perfect time to do spot treatment to eliminate perennial weeds. Like the rest of your lawn, these plants are trying to store as much nutrients as possible to survive the winter, and that means they’ll draw in herbicides faster now than any time of year. As a result, they’ll die faster and require less treatment.
Before wide spread fertilizing, go over areas of sparse grass with a thin layer of compost; a half inch layer is ideal. Make sure it’s fully cured: it should be dry, cool and will crumble easily. When it’s in this state, it won’t support pathogens that could damage your lawn.
To get the best performance, have your soil tested and match the fertilizer with the needs of your lawn. When using a spreader, only open the hopper while it’s in motion to keep from leaving too much fertilizer in any one spot.
To cover small patches of bald turf, there are plenty of options for premixed seed and fertilizer designed specifically for winter.
You’ll want to overlap your passes, so set the spreader to drop 2/3 of the amount recommended on the bag. Using a power overseeder will cut and plant in one pass, eliminating the need to rake.
Raking and Watering
To mix the fertilizer, compost, and seed together, spread it around with a leaf rake, tines pointed upward. Once mixed, the soil will need to be watered 5 minutes each day to promote growth without causing rot. Once the grass sprouts, water between 15 minutes to a half hour each day to keep the new grass growing.
Where to Buy Lawn Care Equipment, Parts and Accessories
Do you need to do some work on your lawn care equipment? Are you tired of raking and want to get a lawn sweeper? Shanks Lawn and Garden can cover all your lawn care needs. We’re a certified dealer for most major lawn care manufacturers, and we have a massive warehouse, so the part you need will usually be in stock. Stop by our shop located at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. That’s just off Route 11, or you can get there from I-81 by taking Exit 10 to Marion.
Not in the area? We can still ship you the parts you need, even if you live in Canada. Just visit www.shankslawn.com.