The recorder – How to prepare your lawn for autumn

Published: 09/14/2008 4:02:25 PM

September is an excellent time to address your lawn and prepare it for the colder months to come. If your lawn is properly winterized, it has a better chance of weathering the colder temperatures and is more likely to thrive when spring comes.

Tips to protect your lawn

Start with a basic cleanup. Rake leaves, remove twigs and clear flower beds. Move cans of paint indoors to keep the paint from freezing.

Clear leaves from the yard. Fallen leaves deprive your grass of crucial sunlight in the autumn months. Leaves can also collect and get wet, which leads to mold growth and attracts pests such as termites. Cover the grill and all garden furniture.

Mow grass until it stops growing. Keep it about 3 inches tall to minimize weed growth.

Put away lawn tools and hoses. Drain and properly dispose of gasoline, or run lawn equipment until gasoline runs out. It can gel over the winter and cause problems starting the engine.

Aerate your lawn in autumn for good root development. Ventilation allows air, moisture and fertilizer to get to the grass roots more efficiently. If your lawn has bald patches, sow grass seeds to fill them in.

Plant bulbs in late fall for strong rooting before winter. Add a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch around your plants.

Autumn is the best season to plant trees. Water newly planted trees and bulbs with an inch and a half of water every week. Cut branches from the roof and gutters.

How to fertilize your lawn

In the case of grasses in the cool season, lawn fertilization in autumn helps promote healthy roots, which in spring is reflected in a greener lawn that is more resistant to pests and diseases. If you’re not interested in doing the job yourself, or if you are concerned about damage to your grass, consider hiring a lawn care professional to upgrade your greens for you.

If you want to do the job yourself, first find out what type of grass you have. Check your local county extension or do research online to determine your grass species. Most cool season grasses can be fertilized in late spring or late fall. Lawns in the warm season are best fertilized in late spring or summer.

For cool-season grasses, experts generally recommend fertilizing twice in the fall: once in early fall with a high-nitrogen fertilizer to encourage leaf growth, and again in late autumn with a high-phosphorus fertilizer to encourage root growth.

Choose your fertilizer carefully and read the labels to make sure they are compatible with your type of grass.

Ideally, wait for a cool day and some rain. Gently distribute the fertilizer with gloves to protect your skin. If you’re using a granular fertilizer instead of liquid, use a fertilizer spreader that you can buy at your local hardware store.

Water after fertilization. Most dry fertilizer products require water to be effective. As a rule, however, you can wait a few days for rain after fertilizing. However, if children or pets use the lawn shortly after treatment, or if temperatures are above 85 degrees, water the lawn shortly after fertilization.

Be sure to keep mowing after fertilizing as your grass will grow faster.

Paul FP Pogue is a reporter at Angie’s List, a provider of local customer reviews and an online marketplace for services.

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