Fall Lawn Care Calendar
What you do to take care of your lawn during the fall and winter depends entirely upon where you live. In the northeast, where the lawn is buried under snow, the best thing you can do is mark the edges of your sidewalks and driveways (to keep your shoveling and plowing on track), and hunker down for the winter. In the mid-south and south, there are plenty of fall lawn care activities.
In northern climates or transition areas with cool season grasses, September is the month to put down a slow-release fall fertilizer. You can also aerate and rake finely sifted compost into the holes to give your lawn a boost come spring. You only want to fertilize actively growing grass.
In warm-season areas, keep an eye out for fungal diseases caused by wet, cool conditions.
Let leaf raking begin! In order to keep your lawn healthy, you have to keep the leaves off of it—whole leaves, that is. Chopped up leaves are a great source of fertilizer! If you have a mulching mower, get ready to mulch. If you don’t have a mulching mower, you’ll likely need to rake and compost. Composting seems complicated, given that there are many books on the subject, but at its core, it is fairly simple: put things in a pile and let them rot. Leaves make great compost, and they’re easy to deal with. Simply put them in a pile and ignore them until next summer. If you have the time and money, use stakes and wire fencing to make a three-side pen to keep the leaves from blowing around.
In warm-season areas, October is the time to overseed the lawn with annual ryegrass to keep a green lawn all year. Cooler areas should blow out and winterize irrigation systems so that the pipes do not freeze and burst.
Depending on where you live, you might be mowing the lawn for the last time in November. The idea behind fall lawn mowing is to keep the grass relatively short so that it doesn’t fall over and trap moisture, bacteria, and fungi between the leaves. You never want to scalp the lawn (mow so low that you rip up grass plants by their roots leaving exposed soil), but you want to keep the grass no taller than two inches when it is damp and cool outside.
Warm season areas should adjust irrigation systems so that they are watering less to reflect cooler temperatures and less growth.
Continue to rake leaves, mow if the grass is still actively growing, and water if the grass is still actively growing. Avoid walking on the lawn after large snow storms or snowmelt, as doing such can compact the soil.