Nine Points For Successful Fall Lawn Care

The very first fall lawn care step starts in September when the nights cool off.
We want to thicken up our turf for next spring and a fall sowing of grass seed will do exactly that. It doesn’t matter how good or bad your lawn is, if you apply this grass seed, the lawn will thicken up. And a thick lawn prevents weeds from germinating.

Apply two pounds of grass seed for every 1000 square feet of lawn.

Best Grass Seed For Fall Sowing

The best grass for northern gardeners is perennial rye grass as it establishes well with a top-dressing sowing (which is what we are doing)


Your next fall lawn care step is in late fall, after the frost has stopped your lawn from growing.

Give the lawn one pound of nitrogen fertilizer per thousand square feet. This is a perfect amount for getting those grass roots to plump up and store enough energy for next year’s perfect lawn.

Dead – Brown Grass

If you have brown dead grass in your lawn right now, you likely are seeing dead crab grass. Remember it is an annual grass, seeding itself every spring so it does die right now and show a bunch of brown in the lawn. There’s nothing you can do in your fall lawn care schedule to cure this, so relax and simply rake it all up when you rake up your leaves.

Corn Gluten for Next Spring Not The Fall

Next spring is the time to apply the corn gluten that is now readily available in garden centres to organically stop crab grass and feed your lawn at the same time.

If you need assistance in setting your spreader, check with the garden center where you purchase your fertilizer.

And you want to get those settings right because excessive nitrogen applications lead to problems next spring. Excessive growth as a a result of your fall lawn care and too much nitrogen leaves too much grass debris on the lawn and weakened roots.

Snow Mould

One of the subsequent problems of too much grass debris is snow mould. Snow mould is the dying off of grass and moldy white areas left behind after the snow melts. You can reduce next spring’s problem by giving your lawn a good last raking after all the leaves have fallen.

Removing organic debris from the lawn with a good raking will reduce snow mould problems next spring. It likely won’t eliminate them, and snow mould affected turf grows back quickly but still, it is pretty ugly and preventing it is a good idea.

Lawnmower Mulch

Alternately, you can run the lawn mower over all the leftover leaves to chop them into fine bits and pieces, while this won’t eliminate the snow mould, it will enable the organic matter to be quickly used by the soil micro-organisms and worms next spring.

I note that a late lawn mowing cuts back the grass and helps eliminate vole damage. Voles tend to move towards areas with higher grass so a final lawn mowing just before freezeup removes some of their protective covering. Also removing any excessive vegetation such as brush piles or weed piles near your lawn will remove their hiding spots.


A good fall lawn care practice is to ensure the gas tank is fully filled when you put your lawn mower away for the season. This will eliminate any moisture condensation in the tank. Moisture condensation leads to water in the gas and problems starting the mower. (not to mention rusting out the tank or fittings)


If your mower is a battery started machine or even a battery powered one, it is a good idea to disconnect the lawn mower battery and take it into the house for the cold winter. Once a month, top up the charge with a small household battery charger. If you can’t remove the battery, at least disconnect the negative terminal to help prevent the battery from self-discharging over the winter.


And while I’m writing about lawns for the last time this year, let me suggest that you consider switching away from salt as an ice preventative or removal agent on your sidewalks. Switch to organic solutions for this slippery problem.

Tossing salt onto lawns as you throw the snow off the walkways is a surefire way to weaken lawns and nearby gardens. Salt is poison to plants and while a lot of it runs away in the spring melt, enough remains to pose a growth challenge to your garden.

And then again, we have to ask where does the salt run away to and who are we affecting downstream? Garden centres and box stores will have organic alternatives to salt available this fall and I’d suggest you investigate them. They may not be as immediately effective as salt but they are far better for our environment and ourselves.

My driveway has a bit of a slope to it and I’ll be using some sand and turface this winter to eliminate ice and give myself some traction. Turface is a clay product that is used by landscapers for specialty lawns and by oil dealers to clean up oil spills. The clay is a great traction device for spreading on ice and it is environmentally benign when spread on the garden.

So, say goodbye to the leaves and lawns for this year; your fall lawn care worries are over. Winter is making its merry way into our gardens.

Click here for more tips for sustainable green lawns

Four Organic Gardening Tips for Controlling Dandelions

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are a curious plant in that humans have deliberately spread its cultivation around the world.
You see, this plant has been historically considered one of the most edible of plants in the vegetable gardens.

The Celts ate it and introduced it to the Roman legions when Caesar invaded the north. AngloSaxons and the Normans used it as a preventative for scurvy. It was a staple food and medicine (diuretic) in the monastery gardens of the middle ages. Puritan settlers brought seeds to North America as a common garden vegetable.

Treat the young leaves of dandelions as you would spinach. It can be used fresh or stir-fried and I’m told that they taste best when grown in the shade and are blanched. Slice the roots and peel them; they can be eaten raw in salads or roasted/fried as part of a vegetable dish.
The yellow blossoms can be eaten fresh, fried, mixed into breads or made into wine.

When we were kids we discovered that eating the blossoms made our spit turn a fascinating yellow (the flowers are slightly bitter).

Dandelion leaves can be made into a health tea and the roots dried and ground up for coffee (like chicory).

This plant is a fine source of iron, copper, potassium and half as much phosphorus as spinach and twice that of cabbages. It has the same calcium content as spinach and is an excellent source for Vitamin A and C. The roots are said to be a digestive stimulant.

And its name apparently is a corruption of the French “dent-de-lion” (lion’s tooth). Depending on which botanist you consult, you’ll find there’s 50 to 60 species and in almost every country of the world, it is considered a weed.

They produce new plants by either seed (those fluffy seedheads) or by vegetative means (if the roots are broken, each bit will produce a new plant).

How to get rid of them from your lawn

OK. We’re talking environmentally sound systems here. I’m not interested in polluting my yard (where kids and pets play) with chemicals.

You need an organic lawn care system to build up a thick turf.
Without that, you’re just wasting your time because the seed will continually blow in.

A thick turf is your first line of defence and the trick to that is to apply 2 pounds of grass seed per 1000 square feet of lawn to your turf every fall. If the lawn is in poor condition, start with a higher amount but always do the 2 pounds to keep it thick.

You can use corn gluten in the spring

Corn gluten not only stops weed seeds from germinating, it feeds your lawn at the same time. Instructions for use are going to be on every package but it’s generally 20 pounds of corn gluten per 000 square feet of lawn – applied just when the  forsythia start to bloom.

Read the instructions with this product. It has to be applied properly to work.

Use an agricultural vinegar to “burn” the leaves.

Burning the leaves means you get a leaf kill but the plant will have enough energy in its roots to produce a new set of leaves.  As soon as they unfold, you burn those before they have a chance to replenish the energy it took to make them. The plant will grow a new set…..

How many times it regrows depends on how big the root is. Your job is to spray every time it unfolds and sooner or later, the roots will expend all their energy and the plant will die. It’s not easy I note but it’s doable.

And with agricultural vinegar, you’ll burn whatever you hit. So, if you hit the grass next to the dandelion, you’ll burn it off as well.

My book on lawn care is here – it has all the information you need in one handy spot.

Your second best defence is a little bit of relaxation.

A small yellow flower isn’t the worst thing that could happen to your life – it’s a first world problem –  (if it is we should talk) and isn’t worth getting bent out of shape over. It is not worth polluting your world to eliminate these small yellow flowers.

You can use a lawn spud

This tool is a long handle with a flat section of steel with a small v-shape at the working end. You put the v-shape against the dandelion root and lean on the handle. It slices through the root cleanly and evenly.

This kills off the top (similar to burning with vinegar) but leaves the bottom to regrow.

Generally you’ll have to do this twice to a dandelion root to kill it but the really big ones can take three goes.Those are the easiest and most environmentally sound ways to eliminate dandelions from your lawn. A healthy lawn, one with thick turf, is your best defence against this weed.

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Shopping Resources for this Page

There are a great many dandelion weeders here – and the lawn spud is among them.

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