Proper lawn care in the fall has a greater impact than similar efforts in the spring for maintaining a healthy lawn year-round. Because turfgrass growth begins to slow in fall, it’s a good time to help the turf develop the stamina it will need to survive the stress of winter and gain a head start for the coming spring.
Fall is also a great time to work with your customers as you prep their lawns for dormant season. Not only does lawn care have a greater impact this time of year, but it’s also a prime opportunity to sell add-on services. Share these tips the next time you visit a customer’s property to help build your business and ensure healthy, attractive turf next spring:
Aerate turf to help minimize thatch, relieve soil compaction, improve drainage and encourage strong turfgrass roots. Proper aeration helps the root systems better establish themselves for the coming winter. Turf should be aerated roughly two weeks before applying the year’s final fertilizer or approximately six weeks before the first frost.
Fall is the best time to establish cool-season grass because the soil temperature is cool and there is less weed competition. First, rake the area to help break up the soil. Then mix topsoil and seed in a bucket, spread the mixture over the bare spots and push it into the ground. Make sure to keep the newly seeded areas moist.
Mowing and raking
Lower the lawnmower’s cutting height in the fall when the grass begins to store food reserves. The lower height helps strengthen the plants’ roots and crowns with nutrients that would have been used by longer grass blades.
Fall also is a good time to dethatch the lawn, removing the layer of dead vegetation that collects around the base of the grass and prevents moisture and nutrients from reaching the roots. Never allow leaves to sit on the turf, as they will smother the grass and become a breeding spot for diseases. Mulch or rake the leaves before they become wet and heavy.
Fertilization and weed control
Fall fertilizer applications provide longer-lasting benefits to a lawn than those done at other times of the year. For best results, make one application in early fall and then another six to eight weeks later. There are fertilizers designed for specific seasons, so make sure to use a fall fertilizer that encourages root growth. These can be applied when the soil temperatures are between 55 and 70 F.
For troublesome winter annuals and perennials like dandelion, chickweed and clover, use a postemergence product such as Defendor® specialty herbicide, which works well under cool conditions. Defendor is available in a “Value Pak” with Dimension® 2EW specialty herbicide and can be tank-mixed for proven crabgrass and broadleaf weed control. This combination also gives turf managers more time to complete the first applications of the season, helping reduce callbacks and minimize complaints.
Preemergence herbicide applications are also effective in the fall, so winter annuals and perennials have less of a chance to develop or multiply in spring. Control henbit, speedwell and lawn burweed with a preemergence product such as Gallery® SC specialty herbicide. Apply before weed germination and activate with ½ inch of rainfall or irrigation.
Application timings vary by geography. In the North, lawn care operators can make fall/winter herbicide applications as early as Labor Day. In warmer climates, they can apply as late as October.
State restrictions on the sale and use of Defendor and Dimension 2EW apply. Consult the label before purchase or use for full details.