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When it comes to taking care of your lawn, fall presents one of the best opportunities throughout the year. First, the fall fertilizer application is the most important feeding you can give your lawn to help it withstand winter and prepare it for next spring. Fall is also the best time to get rid of those pesky weeds as they begin to lose their chokehold on your lawn. And finally, if you really want a healthy lawn next spring, fall is the perfect time to aerate and over-seed so you will have a thick carpet of grass next year. This video will show you the four basics of fall lawn care: fertilization, weed control, aeration and over-seeding.
When it comes to taking care of your lawn, fall presents one of the best opportunities throughout the year. First, the fall fertilizer application is the most important feeding you can give your lawn to help it withstand winter and prepare it for next spring. Fall is also the best time to get rid of those pesky weeds as they begin to lose their chokehold on your lawn. And finally, if you really want a healthy lawn next spring, fall is the perfect time to aerate and over-seed so you will have a thick carpet of grass next year.
Today we’ll show you the four basics of fall lawn care: fertilization, weed control, aeration and over-seeding. So let’s get started.
The first thing to keep in mind is fall lawn care is different in different parts of the country. The best thing to do is talk with your local independent home improvement retailer about fall lawn care in your part of the country. They can recommend what’s best for either cool-season turf grasses, like we have here, or warm-season varieties, such as Zoysia, Bermudagrass and St. Augustine, which go dormant in fall and may not need as much care.
This segment is more geared toward cool-season turn grasses, such as Fescus, Bluegrass, Rye grass, and bent grass. What we’ll discuss today will be beneficial to these types of turf grass in the September/October timeframe.
Many homeowners think that just because they fertilized in spring and summer that they don’t need to when the growing season begins to wind down in the fall. The fall fertilizer application is the most important application of the year because it supplies food reserves that store up in the roots of the plant during the winter. This will help your lawn green up more rapidly next spring. It’s not about growth above the ground. It’s about the roots. If you’re timing your fall application to coincide with a core aeration and over-seeding in early fall, like we’re doing, choose a fertilizer starter that will help the seeds germinate properly. If you waiting until late fall to apply a winterizer formula like this one, wait until late October or even early November and apply according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
One of the next best things you can do for your lawn in the fall is to knock back common perennial broadleaf weeds like dandelions, clover and even tougher weeds such as ground ivy. In autumn is when these weeds start rapidly pulling nutrients from their leaves into their roots to store for winter. Topical systemic herbicides like the ones you see here, are more easily drawn into the roots of these weeds, which helps provide the knock-out punch that may not be as effective during the spring and summer season, when these weeds were actively spreading throughout the lawn. Just remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and wear proper protections, such as these gloves and eye protection. Also make sure the herbicide won’t spoil your efforts if you’re planting new grass seed or over-seeding in the fall. Read labels carefully for proper instructions.
If you’re overseeding this fall, you first have to check to make sure you don’t have too much thatch in your lawn. Thatch is a build-up of living and dead grass roots and stems between the top of the soil and the green part of the grass blade. Just cut into the soil several inches and remove a section for examination. If the layer of thatch is greater than 1/2 inch thick, the lawn should dethatched or core aerated as we’re going to do. I’m going to use this hand-held core aerator to cut a plug and check for thatch.
One way to remove thatch is to rake it with a steel tined lawn rake, like this one. See the brownish layer that’s coming up. Another tool is this rake, which is specifically designed for removing thatch. Look at how much more thatch this tool removes. What you’ll soon discover is that dethatching is hard work. That’s why we’re going to aerate our lawn using this core aerator that we rented for the day from our local independent home improvement retailer.
Core aeration is the process of pulling out plugs of grass and soil that are approximately one half inch wide and three inches long, similar to the size of your pinky finger. Here is what a plug looks like up close. Looks like our lawn has some thatch we’ll have to contend with. This hand-held core aerator is designed for use on very small lawns. And as you can see, it would take all year to aerate our lawn using this, which is why we’ll be using this motorized, self-propelled, walk-behind unit. Now a word of caution: These machines are heavy and can be awkward to operate when you start. So if you are at all hesitant to use one, call a professional lawn service to have it done.
In preparation for aeration, yesterday we mowed the lawn and caught the grass clippings. We also watered heavily to soften the hard, compacted soil to make our job easier. As you can see, this machine easily removes the plug, which will allow air and water to get to the roots of our turf grass. It will also allow beneficial microorganisms to move around more easily. A couple passes in different directions will do the trick. And the plugs that are removed can be left on the lawn to provide needed organic material back into the soil. In a couple weeks, with proper watering, they will break down.
The benefits of core aeration go well beyond thatch removal. Aerating your lawn is something you should consider doing each fall in conjunction with over-seeding, which is basically spreading grass seed over an existing lawn. When done in conjunction with a core aeration, it helps soften and expose the soil so seeds can come in contact with the soil for proper germination.
At our local independent home improvement retailer we also selected a grass seed specifically designed for sewing this time of year. What most people don’t know is fall is the best time to plant grass because cool-season grasses grow rapidly in the cool fall weather and have less competition from germinating weeds. For more information on choosing the right grass seed and the best time to plant, see our Frequently Asked Questions related to this video.
The trick is not to apply too much seed, and to follow up with an application of seed starter fertilizer, like you see here. Remember that thick lawns don’t happen all at once, but are created over time. Applying too much seed all at once is a recipe for overcrowding. We’ll follow the manufacturer’s recommendations using this hand-held spreader. You can also use a broadcast spreader to control seed disbursement.
As you learned in our video "Seeding a Bare Spot, grass seed needs moisture to germinate. Keep the soil moist by lightly watering the lawn two to three times a day while seedlings are germinating and starting to grow. If you need some guidance on selecting the right sprinkler, see our video "Lawn Watering Basics."
Well there you have it. While you won’t see the fruits of your labor pay off until next spring, you’ll certainly be glad you took time this fall to take proper steps toward a healthy and beautiful lawn.
Ask your local independent home improvement retailer about which fall fertilizer is recommended for the type of grass you have.
Spray weed killer to get rid of any remaining weeds. Wear eye and hand protection during this step.
For over seeding your lawn, check to make sure you don’t have too much thatch in your lawn.
Rake out the thatch.
Aerate your lawn to help keep thatch from accumulating too quickly. Be sure to water the lawn the day before to soften it. You can rent an aerator from your local independent home improvement retailer.
Add grass seed to your lawn.
Water the lawn 2 to 3 times a days while the seeds are germinating.