Fall and spring are the most important times of the year for establishing and strengthening lawns, as well as preparing them for the harsh temperatures of winter and summer. Here are some tips for taking care of your lawn in the fall.
About Fall Lawns
There are two basic types of grasses—cool-season and warm-season—with different needs and requirements:
- Cool-season lawns (fescue, bluegrass, and rye) have their peak growing season in the early fall. This is the absolute best time of year to establish, strengthen, and cultivate these types of grasses.
- Warm-season lawns (Bermuda, centipede, St. Augustine, and zoysia) wind down their growing season as the weather cools. Warm-season grasses go brown and dormant after the first hard freeze, so fall care for them focuses more on weed control and planning for winter color.
Fall Lawn Cultivation
When lawns are growing, they respond well to cultivation tasks that improve soil quality. Unless you’re planting a new lawn and can till up the entire area, lawn cultivation is done gradually, every year or two, so that the lawn grasses can recover. Here are the most important lawn cultivation tasks:
- Dethatching should be done during your lawn’s peak growing season, but only if the thatch layer is over ½ inch. For cool-season lawns, fall is a perfect time. Hold off on dethatching warm-season lawns until next spring.
- Core Aeration should also be done during your lawn’s peak growing season so that the grasses can quickly recover. It’s best to aerate cool-season lawns in the fall and warm-season lawns in the spring or early summer.
- Top-Dressing your lawn with topsoil mixed with other ingredients is a great way to finish up the cultivation process since it evens out lumps and improves soil quality. Top-dress after aerating, and seed any bare spots.
- Correcting Soil pH can be done in the fall for any type of lawn. Start by conducting a soil test to determine what amendments, if any, are needed for your lawn. Apply lime to acid soils or sulfur to alkaline soils according to the recommendations of your soil test.
|Task||Cool-Season Lawn||Warm-Season Lawn|
|Core Aeration||Fall||Spring/Early Summer|
|Correcting pH||Fall or Spring||Fall or Spring|
Fertilizing Fall Lawns
Whether you should fertilize your lawn in the fall or not depends on the type of grass you have.
Fertilizing Cool-Season Lawns
- Start feeding cool-season lawns in late August or September (6 weeks before your average first frost) with an N-P-K ratio of 3:1:2 or 4:1:2. The nitrogen will stimulate green shoots and thick growth. Most lawns benefit from about one pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Check the instructions on the fertilizer bag for correct application.
- Apply winterizing fertilizers, which are higher in potassium to promote winter hardiness, around the time of your last mowing of the season (October to November).
Too much fertilizer can burn your lawn. Choose slow-release organic fertilizers whenever possible, and follow package instructions to make sure you apply the correct amount.
Fertilizing Warm-Season Lawns
- Stop feeding warm-season lawns in early August to late September (6-8 weeks before your average first frost). Do not fertilize warm-season grasses in the fall, unless you live in a frost-free climate, since this will stimulate growth as they are going dormant for the winter. Instead, wait until the growing season begins in spring or early summer.
- Winterizing Fertilizers: While there’s some debate about the usefulness of winterizer fertilizers, it’s generally recommended not to apply anything to warm-season grass after August.
Core Aeration helped my lawn 100%. Especially due to the high clay content in my soil. Every time I would aerate, I would add about a half inch of a top soil and manure mix on top.
How do you recomend repairing a very bumpy lawn. Most of it is not caused by tree roots. It may be settlement over the years (50 years) but has only ocured in the last couple of years.
I live on Long Island and want to thatch, fertilize, and overseed my lawn. How should I time these 3 tasks?
What height should I mow for my final cut of the fall? My grass is bluegrass. Thank you
If I “weed & feed” my lawn in the Fall, what is an adequate waiting period before aerating and over-seeding my lawn (to avoid hindering the new seed germiation process)?
I think I have got a late start in the lawn care for fall. I still want to weed and feed but I also want to aerate and overseed do I still have time and how lond shgould I wait to overseed after the weed and feed?
What ways to treat ants? I have so many piles of ants all over my lawn. I also have holes in my lawn some from trees and other am not sure how they got there. Need help please. Thanking you in advance
What r the white looking butterfly’s or maybe moth looking, that fly above the lawn, and do they do damage to the lawn. Thank u henry
In Alabama what is a good time to burn off a lawn I’ve seen guys do this is it a good idea ?????
Planted oat and grass seed. It was planted in september. It is the first of November the grass look beautiful. Should we cut the grass or waite until spring
I like to overseed my yard in the fall. This year I tried overseeding in the spring. I found that by using “Pennington Smart Grass” seed for “Sun and Shade” that overseeding in April proved to be successful. I live in Michigan. I have never been able to grow grass behind my house because of the shade. I tried Scotts grass seed with no success. When Lowes or Home Depot has a sale on Pennington grass seed I buy it by the 20lb bag and apply it in April (with all the wonders of natural watering to help my grass grow). Also, the product boasts 30% less watering year after year….. I don’t like watering my grass with city water…I find that the chlorine in the water really doesn’t do my lawn any good….so I mulch my grass at 3-1/2 inches. My lawn stayed beautiful using Scotts Fertilizer Program.
How long into the fall do you water new grass seed? Our first frost has hit.
Trying to stay organic year round due to health reasons, this year I have used milorganite consistently, and stopped about six weeks ago, I live in north Florida, and have St. Augustine grass. I have pelicans, ducks, and aquatic birds visit my lawn every fall, they seem not to like the milorganite, and have skip my lawn due to this fertilizer. Nevertheless, they walk through my lawn, and probably urine in it, so I noticed brown patch in my lawn. I would like to know what organic product can I use to get rid of brown patch, and what organic products to use for fungus, dollars weeds, mushrooms, and weeds? Any information would be appreciated.