It seems like all aspects of nature transition in the fall. Animals bulk up or stock up. Birds fly south. We also transition by adjusting to shorter days and longer nights, and gradually wearing heavier clothing.
Like the rest of the outdoors transitioning, the lawn is no different. It may look idle above the ground, but underground the roots are working feverishly, grabbing all the water, nutrients and oxygen they can. Think of a duck, smoothly gliding across the lake, but paddling its heart out underwater.
Here are a few tips to ensure that the lawn transitions into the fall as smoothly as that duck, and that the roots get what they need to create a lush, healthy lawn come spring.
Remove fallen leaves regularly. Leaves that mat down can trap moisture, block out the sun, breed fungal diseases, or provide a staycation for unwanted insects. A pro tip from LawnStarter is to use the leaves to your advantage as an excellent source of nitrogen. Rake up the leaves and save them for the compost bin, or “mower mulch” them into shreds and let them stay on the lawn to return nutrients to the soil.
Gradually drop the height of the mower blade. Then for the last two mowings, adjust the blade to its lowest setting. The grass should be short enough so that the sun shines onto the crown of the grass, but not so short that the lawn is open to being attacked by weeds.
3. Weed Control
Weeds siphon away the water, nutrients, and oxygen that the grass roots and rhizomes need. The most eco-friendly way to get rid of weeds is to pull them up and dig out the roots. However, since this can be time consuming, using an eco-friendly herbicide can also do the trick. Pour boiling hot water on the roots or spray the leaves with full-strength apple vinegar. Make sure that only the weed is treated, because both hot water and vinegar will kill any plant.
Aeration gives the roots easy access to the water, nutrients, and oxygen by extracting plugs of dirt. It also loosens soil that has become compacted throughout the summer and reduces thatch. The key to core aeration is by doing it at least once a year; this can be done by using a hollow-tined aerating fork or by an aeration machine.
If you've got a very large yard—say, more than two to three acres—you might want a local lawn care company to take care of that task for you.
Essential for healthy growth, an eco-friendly way to fertilize the soil is to spread compost, either plant matter only or containing manure, in a half inch-thick layer over the lawn. Grass clippings and mulched leaves are another natural way to fertilize the lawn; they do so naturally as they decompose in the soil.
Keep the lawn hydrated. Droughts can last into fall, so water the lawn once or twice a week—enough to keep the soil wet several inches deep. Even without a drought, you need to provide your lawn with minimal hydration, unless you are getting at least one inch of precipitation a week. Whatever the situation, do not stop watering abruptly.