Fall Lawn Care Brings Spring Green

This dry summer has caused most lawns to burn out. As the temperatures cool and, hopefully, we get some late summer rains, you will be able to see what is coming back. Then you can follow the tips that follow for renovation of your lawn. Watering is even more important now, as the soil has no retention – the water just runs off. So you have to wet it lightly and then rewater deeply.

Fall is a great time to renew an existing lawn or plant a new one. Grass is a cool-season plant. Warm days, cool nights, warm soil equal optimum conditions for grass to grow.

First, do a soil test. It's easy and quick and the best possible way to know exactly what your lawn needs. Use the test kit from UConn (sold online or at Woodland Gardens). Once you send in your soil sample, you'll get a response in one or two weeks telling you how you can improve your soil. We can help you interpret their response if you're confused. But it's invaluable information that can make all the difference with your lawn.

Feed with a fall fertilizer, which is usually low in nitrogen (the first number on the fertilizer bag). Use it in newly planted areas (new lawns especially like lower nitrogen), but you can also use it on entire established lawns for good root development as we go into winter. Just remember: Late fall fertilizer will enhance early spring green.

Kill weeds. September and October are the best months to control perennial broadleaf weeds. Perennial weeds such as violets, ground ivy, chickweed, and dandelions should be treated in the fall with either "weed & feed" or should be sprayed with a naturally derived broadleaf weed control.
Prevent spring weeds. Annual weeds, such as crabgrass, are going to die now. However, they have already thrown seed, so next spring, using a pre-emergent such as corn gluten will be wise if you have been plagued with crabgrass this summer.

Use lime. Fall is a great time for this. A general rule is 40 to 50 pounds per 1000 sq. ft. once a year, or refer to your soil test results for your lawn's specific needs.

Plant grass seed to either establish a new lawn or renovate a poor lawn. This is best done by the middle of September. This is when grass grows rapidly because of the cool weather and it has less competition from germinating weeds. You must be able to water your seed. It cannot dry out. Seed needs water, sunlight, and contact with soil to germinate.

If you have used weed control, you cannot seed your lawn now.

Here's a rule of thumb:

Yes you can:

  • Seed 
  • Lime
  • Fertilize
  • Use insect control

No you can't:

  • Seed
  • Use weed control

Keep mowing the lawn at the highest setting. But when you do your final mowing of the year, lower the cutting height of the blade (set it at 2 inches).