Colorful leaves might look great on your Instagram feed, but they can wreak havoc on your lawn if you don’t take care of them before the snow flies.
Amidst all of the fun and frivolity that comes with the fall season (trick-or-treating anyone?) also comes some chores. The colorful leaves might look great on your Instagram feed, but they can wreak havoc on your lawn if you don’t take care of them before the snow flies. But getting your lawn ready for winter and giving it a great start in the spring requires a bit more than just a few hours with a rake. In fact, there are a few lawn to-dos that you should never skip.
5 Lawn Tasks You Should Never Skip
- Keep Mowing
- Weed Control
- Fill in Bare Patches
Here they are in more detail.
1. Keep Mowing
Don’t pack the lawn mower away just yet. As long as your grass is still growing, you need to keep mowing. Typically, grass will continue to grow until the first frost, so you could be mowing well into October or even later, depending on where you live. While it might be tempting to just forgo the mowing until spring, letting the grass get too long will encourage thatching over the winter, which only invites pests and diseases into your lawn. Cutting the grass shorter than normal (about 2 or 2.5 inches is ideal) not only helps reduce the amount of raking and thatch removal you will have to do in the spring, but also helps cut your fall workload, as your mower can easily mulch remaining leaves and other debris on the lawn.
2. Weed Control
Just because it’s getting colder doesn’t mean the weeds are going to wither and die. In fact, some perennial pests like dandelions are busy sapping nutrients from the soil and your grass to get ready for the winter. Get a head start on spring, and give your lawn a fighting chance over the winter, by treating problem areas now with an herbicide when weeds are most vulnerable to it. Just be sure that you follow the package instructions, and if you have warm season grasses (like Bermuda grass) ensure that they are completely dormant to avoid killing them too.
Aerating your lawn involves using a tool or machine to punch holes in the soil and pull out small plugs, leaving small holes. Aerating allows more oxygen and water to reach the roots of your grass by breaking up tangled root systems and compacted earth, which can eventually kill the lawn. This fall lawn care task can easily be handled by a pro, or you can rent a walk-behind aerating machine for about $100 for a day, getting it done quickly. And when you do, the next two tasks on the list are more effective.
4. Fill in Bare Patches
If a summer of fun has left its mark on your lawn, now is a good time to seed bare patches and overseed the entire area to give it a head start in the spring, as long as the ground hasn’t yet frozen. Provided that the soil is thawed enough to seed, spread the seed and cover with a light layer of straw to keep birds and other animals away. Water regularly until the seeds germinate. The only time that you don’t want to overseed your lawn is if it is on a slope. Unless it has time to really take root before the snow flies, the seeds will just wash away over the winter.
If you do nothing else (beyond mowing and raking, of course), be sure to fertilize your lawn in the fall. Cool season grasses should always be fed in the fall, as the fertilizer provide the important nutrients necessary to stay healthy even as the grass goes dormant over the winter. When spring finally arrives, your lawn will have a head start on becoming green and lush.
3 Tasks You Can Safely Skip
As you make your fall to-do list, there are (thankfully) a few tasks that you don’t have to worry about. Skipping these tasks isn’t about being lazy, either—they are actually beneficial to birds and animals.
1. Raking flower beds.
If leaves land in your flower beds, don’t worry about it for now. A layer of leaves can actually help protect the roots of your plants, while also providing a food source for bugs and birds. As the leaves break down, the compost will also add nutrients to the soil, helping your flowers grow bigger next year.
2. Burning brush.
If you have a place on your property to put it, skip burning the brush pile this year. A brush pile provides shelter for birds and animals, and over time, it will break down and create more compost.
3. Trimming back dead flowers.
Got a bed of dead sunflowers? Daisies not looking so fresh anymore? Don’t worry about them. Leaving the spent flowers in the flower bed will help feed the birds, and depending on the type of plants you have, leaving the seeds over the winter can help naturalize them, giving you more flowers next year.
Taking care of your yard now might feel like a lot of work, but it’s well worth it when your lawn looks great in the spring. And most of all, you’ll regret skipping them in the spring, when you have to do even more work to get your lawn looking great.