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.
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.
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.