Fall Lawn Care Schedule For Our Cool-Season Grass
Fall lawn care is an important element of your overall lawn care schedule. While it helps maintain your lawn’s health through the fall months, it serves an even more important function: it prepares your lawn for winter survival and preemptively prepares for spring revival.
Winter can be long and tough on your lawn, so your fall lawn care is essential to ensuring your lawn perks up, and greens up, in the spring. It is a springboard to ensure you start out the following spring on a good foot.
Let’s explore your fall lawn care schedule for cool-season grasses.
What are Cool-Season Grasses?
In the simplest terms, cool-season grasses are grass types that thrive in areas with cold winters and hot summers.
Grown in the upper two-thirds of the United States, cool-season grasses:
- Grow best in 65-70 degree temperatures.
- Should be mowed at 3-4 inches (this height changes in fall, but we will cover that later)
- Include Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescue.
- Can withstand extreme temperature fluctuations
Fall Lawn Care Schedule
Fall is the best time to overseed because the ground is still warm, moisture is more plentiful, nights are cool, and the sun is not as hot during the day.
While a complete overseed is probably not necessary and requires sewing seed throughout the entire lawn, it’s the perfect time to tackle those bare spots, thin patches, and dead areas.
Here’s how to do it:
- Loosen soil (at least ¼ inch deep) and remove any dead grass.
- Sprinkle grass seed and lightly rake the seed into the loose soil.
- Apply fertilizer (24-0-10 slow release).
- Water generously for remainder of fall.
Early fall is also the first of two fertilizing rounds. Just as grass roots need water to last the winter, they also benefit from a shot of the plant sugars. These sugars protect roots from freezing and give the entire plant the energy to bounce back in the spring.
Use a spreader to apply a 24-0-10 (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) slow-release fertilizer to your lawn.
Mid fall is aeration time. Aeration loosens the soil, allows your lawn to breathe, and allows nutrients, water, and fertilizer to permeate into the root zone.
However, before aerating, take the time to dethatch your lawn. Thatch is simply organic buildup on the surface of your lawn. If too thick, this thatch can begin to suffocate your lawn. By dethatching, you are not only removing this buildup, but you are giving yourself an idea of what conditions your grass and soil and have been living under.
If dethatching reveals a large amount of thatch, core aeration is likely needed and will need to be done professionally. If dethatching reveals a benign amount of thatch, you should be able to get away with poking holes (3 inches deep) into your lawn with a pitchfork (make rows 6-12 inches apart).
As late fall gives way to beautiful leaves, these leaves will succumb to gravity and create a cozy blanket over your lawn.
Your main job now is to keep leaves and debris off your lawn. If you live in an area with old, massive trees you will want to bag as many of the leaves as possible. If the amount of leaves isn’t overwhelming, simply mulch them with your lawn mower. The fresh organics of the mulched leaves will add nutrients into your soil (while this may turn to thatch later, it is presently beneficial).
It’s also your job to apply your final round of fertilizer. However, this is the time to apply a weed killer/fertilizer combo. Fall is the best time to preemptively deal with weeds, so find a fall ‘weed and feed’ fertilizer.
Fall Mowing Tip
Fall is the time to lower your mowing height. While summer requires cutting grass at 3 to 4 inches, fall is the time to cut your grass at 2 inches.
Your grass no longer has to defend itself against extreme summer heat, and you want to ensure your grass won’t become matted down underneath leaves and snow. This matting can lead to mold and overall unhealthiness.
Do not mow lower than 2 inches. Mowing too short is one of the quickest ways to destroy your lawn.