Did you know the greenest, healthiest lawns are achieved with the work done in the fall? Follow a few simple steps now and even the saddest of lawns will be looking tip top next summer. Your lawn will benefit from fall care and you can dream all winter of summer’s lush landscape!
Rake Your Leaves
Is it truly necessary to rake the beautifully colored leaves from your lawn each fall? Yes. Take a moment to enjoy them and then do your lawn a favor and rake, rake, rake. A heavy layer of leaves can deteriorate the health of your lawn if they are left to sit too long. Many Colorado lawns are planted with cool season grasses, meaning they are most active during periods of cooler temperatures. When given enough sunlight, the correct nutrients, and sufficient water, these grasses use the cooler early fall temperatures to revitalize their root systems. If there is a thick layer of leaf matter covering the lawn then the grass won’t be able to receive the sunlight it needs for this growth period.
Another reason to remove your leaves is that they can protect and overwinter pests and diseases! Giving these pests and diseases a place to hide comfortably over the winter means extra work to treat them next spring and summer. If the leaves are really matted down, they can even keep new grass blades from emerging next spring.
If your lawn has a lighter blanketing of leaves, we recommend a mulching lawn mower to chop up the leaves. The resulting finely shredded leaves fall harmlessly between the blades of your grass and serve as a great lawn compost. Alternatively, you can use a bag attachment on your mower and empty the contents into your compost bin. Some cities have leaf removal programs or large scale composting facilities.
If your lawn is comprised of cool season grasses, the best time to fertilize is now. In fact, if you are only going to fertilize one time during the year, fall is the time to do it. Cool season grasses put on the most growth during this time of the year and they need nutrients to do so. The reason that fall fertilizing is so effective is because plants respond to external triggers in fall to start the process of preparing for winter. These triggers include hours of daylight and temperature changes. As days shorten and air cools, plants, including turf grass, respond by slowing growth and shifting food reserves from leaves to roots. By using a winterizing fertilizer, you are feeding the active root growth and in turn giving them more nutrients to store for winter.
Aerate and Reseed
Fall is the time to give your lawn some extra TLC and attention. Aerating your grass is an excellent way to do this! Aeration involves perforating the soil and removing small plugs of earth. These little holes allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the grass's root system. The roots will grow deeper and produce a stronger, more vigorous lawn. The main reason for aeration is the alleviation of compacted soil and the penetration of old thatch (dead grass that forms a barrier preventing new growth). You can rent an aeration machine yourself or hire a landscaping company to do it for you.
After aerating, reseed! To over-seed a lawn, simply broadcast grass seed over the existing lawn. As your lawn matures over the years, thinning is normal—especially if you enjoy your lawn and use it often. Over-seeding keeps your lawn full, without needing to start from scratch. Prime time for over-seeding cool season grasses in Colorado is early fall. Warm soil encourages germination, cool fall air stimulates growth, and there is less fluctuation in soil moisture. Newly over-seeded lawns need consistent moisture. Keep seed and soil moist with frequent light watering twice a day for the first four days. Water more heavily every other day for the next five days. Then water as needed to prevent wilting. This encourages deep, healthy roots. And remember, the more work you do this fall, the more time you’ll have to sit on your beautiful healthy lawn next summer!