If you are like many others, autumn yardwork probably sneaks up on you out of nowhere. One day you are basking in the sun, fanning yourself and drinking lemonade and then all of a sudden, you need to put a jacket on to walk the dog in the morning. This is usually about the same time you realize that leaves are starting to fall — and you haven’t even begun the fall care on your lawn yet.
Start Fall Lawncare in September
Whether you’re laying an entire lawn, filling in patches or simply need to get your current lawn ready for winter, September is the time to start. This doesn’t mean waiting until the last week when you realize winter is coming early this year either. Create a plan of what you need to do, write a list of what you need to make it happen, and make a schedule. You’re more likely to stick with it if it’s in writing.
Seeding a Fall Lawn
Ideally, seed your lawn as close to the beginning of September as possible, especially Kentucky bluegrass as it needs two months to mature. If you wait too long, you reduce the chance of it germinating successfully. Seeds should never be permitted to dry out, so depending on weather, you may need to water quite often, sometimes even twice a day.
The seeds need to really bond with the soil, so a roller or rake should be used after seeding. Always make sure that you work the soil at least six inches deep first and add organic matter.
Fall Lawn Fertilization
A fertilizer rich in nitrogen should be applied in September. This will stimulate growth while the temperatures are still mild. It is recommended to cover your lawn first in vertical rows, then in horizontal ones, and then, if you still have some left, travel in a circular or diagonal direction. This will ensure the area is covered uniformly.
Applying a winterizer is equally important, a step many neglect. This slow-released fertilizer provides the roots with nutrients to store and use in the spring. This needs to be applied after the final mow of the season.
Other Autumn LawnCare Tips
- Weeding – The best time to start thinking about ground ivy, dandelions and other invasive plants is in September. Now is the time to apply herbicides if desired.
- Dethatching – It is important that you don’t get carried away with your rake and remove more than half an inch or this will negatively affect your lawn.
- Aeration – When you loosen the soil, you’re granted healthier shoots because the roots are provided with oxygen. September is the best time to do this, as long as the soil is not soggy.
Fall Overseeding For Southern Lawns
People have a love/hate relationship with their Bermuda grass. Sure, it’s lush and vibrant in the summer but it turns an unattractive brown in the winter. Ryegrass is ideal to use for overseeding, providing your Bermuda is healthy. Use between 5 and 10 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet. Don’t use more or you’ll be struck with a lot of ryegrass in the spring when you want your gorgeous Bermuda lawn to take over.
Overseeding with northern grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, fine and tall fescues can be done to other southern lawns as well, including St. Augustine, Zoysia or Buffalo grass. Once these varieties sprout, you’re blessed with a spectacular lawn even during what you consider to be the cold months. Then, when the summer heat returns, this grass will die back so your warm-season grass can return.
Always mow the lawn as low as possible before overseeding; core aeration isn’t a bad idea either. In some cases, a layer of topsoil may be needed first. Water twice a day to keep the soil moist if rainfall is scarce. Even after the blades sprout, keep watering — remember that this grass would be growing in the rainy, spring season in the North, so these varieties are typically thirsty.