Here’s my controversial opinion: fall lawn care is fun. I can practically feel the eye rolls I’ll get for that, but I stand by my opinion. Consider this: you get to enjoy the outdoors, the weather is the right temperature to keep you cool as you work, and everything you do makes a visible (and satisfying!) difference. Not to mention the great workout you get while raking and dethatching! It’s a win-win for you and your landscape.
With that said, I know I’m among the few who enjoy fall yard maintenance. Nevertheless, if you have a lawn, it has to be maintained whether you like it or not. If you’re in the camp who bemoans yard work of any kind, find motivation in the fact that a great fall lawn maintenance regimen will save you hours of much tougher labour in the spring. Work smarter, am I right?
So, let’s focus on keeping this season’s yard work as painless as possible. Here’s my month-by-month guide to fall lawn care in Guelph.
September Lawn Care
In the early fall, the focus of your lawn care should be setting the stage to transition out of “summer mode” and into a new growth cycle.
Adjust Your Mower – In the summer, you may have been keeping grass fairly long to protect against heat stress and the effects of drought. In the fall, grass grows much more slowly, and long grass is harder to rake through. Adjust your mower height to 1½ or 2 inches high to keep grass manageable.
Control Weeds – As grass grow slows, aggressive weeds tend to jump on the opportunity to compete. Now is a good time to conquer any lingering weeds before they try to muscle out new grass. If you pull by hand, you’ll have an easier time after a rainfall when the soil is damp and flexible. In dire cases of weed overgrowth, talk to us at our garden centre for advice on weed killers that won’t harm the natural balance of your yard.
Start Raking – Of course, you’ll have to repeat this chore regularly moving into fall. However, you’ll have a much easier time by starting early! If you really hate raking leaves by hand, just go over the grass with the lawn mower. (Note: This only applies to models with a bag.) You shouldn’t mow every day, but you can enlist the mower to help you out whenever the grass is due for a trim. If you go this route, scout your yard for large sticks before getting started.
Lay Sod (If Needed) – If you plan to lay sod for your landscape, the earlier you can get it done, the better. Sod will take time to establish, so laying it in September will give the new grass time to sink its roots into the new soil.
Aerate – One of the most commonly skipped steps, yet also among the most important. Aerating ushers oxygen deep into the top layers of the soil while clearing the path for seed and organic matter. This helps the grass grow strong enough to outdo weeds.
Dethatch – Thatch is a layer of dead material that collects between the live grass and the soil surface. Try carving up a patch of your lawn from an inconspicuous area of your yard to check your thatch. If you have more than an inch of thatch above your soil line, it’s time for a serious dethatching! Clearing it out is important for preventing insects and diseases from using the thatch layer as a breeding ground.
Overseed Lawn – Now that your yard is aerated and the thatch has been broken up, the soil is in prime condition for overseeding. Focus grass seed on dead or sparse spots, and plant generously. After overseeding, it’s important to keep the soil moist to help the seed germinate and grow deep roots before the frost. That’s why I always suggest taking advantage of any wain we seen and applying then.
Apply Top Dressing – After overseeding, lay down a thin layer of topsoil with lots of organic matter. This enriches the soil, filling in those aerated areas and creating vital contact with grass seed.
Apply Nematodes – If you’ve ever had a grub problem in your lawn, you know it’s a headache unlike anything else to try and get that fixed. Luckily, nematodes are happy to handle it for you, and now’s a great time to get them down to tackle any current or upcoming problems. To help them stick better, apply them the morning after you’ve mowed while there’s still dew on the grass. This way, you’ll need to water much less to settle them in!
October Lawn Care
October is one of my favourite months in Guelph, largely due to the variety of foliage colours in full display. Of course, those gently falling crimson leaves mean we’ve got even more fall lawn maintenance to do!
Compost Leaves – By now, you’ll have no shortage of leaves to clear out. Those leaves make fantastic compost, so don’t let them go to waste! If you’re using a mulching mower, empty the bags into your compost heap (unless, of course, you’ve mowed over any visibly diseased areas). Your grass clippings and leaves are an excellent mix of green and brown matter that together can produce beautiful soil for your springtime garden!
Buy Fertilizer – In November, everyone in the Guelph area will be looking for it. Get it early in October before every store is struggling to keep it in stock. Opt for a high-nitrogen formula, like CIL’s 12-0-18 to build excellent root structures and provide overall health and disease-resistance. For patchy spots, you can also try CIL’s Turf Starter!
November Lawn Care
Your late fall lawn care should be all about winding down and preparing for the freeze.
Apply Fertilizer – A late fall grass fertilizer application will arm your lawn with the nutrients it needs to survive the winter. After the snow melts, all that extra nitrogen will help your grass spring back to life.
Mow One Last Time – That final pass with the mower is important. While it’s tempting to let overgrown grass sit until the snow covers it up, you may end up unintentionally creating a seasonal hotel for mice and voles. Then, when the temperature plummets, they may migrate to the closest source of warmth and food—your house.
Drain Irrigation Systems – You definitely don’t want to skip this step! If you have irrigation lines set up in your home, make sure you set a date to drain them and shut off those valves. Nobody likes dealing with a busted pipe.
While the change of seasons brings plenty of autumn beauty, it also brings its fair share of responsibilities. However, by working smart and moving fast, you can stay on top of it and lighten your workload later on. At Royal City Nursery, we carry all the supplies to get through this list yourself, or you can let us wield the rake with our Yard Maintenance services. Contact us for a quote today!