As the days grow cooler and shorter, you may want to stay in and start those indoor home improvement projects you’ve been putting off. But before you tuck away the lawnmower and pull out the snow shovels, use the fall season to show your lawn some love.
After the Virginia summer with plenty of sun, barbeques and lawn games, the fall months are critical in ensuring lush spring growth. We’ve got you covered with these essential fall lawn care tips for your Charlottesville yard.
While it might be tempting to let leaves sit on the grass and hope for a Halloween witch to make them disappear, it’s important to rake them as often as necessary. Fallen leaves not only block the sun from reaching the grass, they will also trap moisture. This can be a deadly combination for your lawn. Raking can be a time-consuming endeavor but if start early and rake often, each time to you do it, the job will be quick and easy.
Cut it short (but not too short)
If you only have a few deciduous trees, you might be able to get away without raking. No, you can’t just leave them covering the grass in favor of watching football, but you can cut them as you mow. As long as the leaves get broken into small pieces, they’ll act like a mulch for the grass.
Grass will continue to grow until the first hard frost, so you have to keep cutting it. If you allow it to grow too long, it can start to become matted and prone to fungus. It’s better to keep it short. Be careful not to go too short though, or you could leave the root system susceptible to damage.
Continue to water
Although the sun does not burn as bright or as long as in the summer, your lawn still needs adequate water throughout the fall. You should aim for about an inch of water a week to keep roots healthy and prepared for the coming winter. In Charlottesville and most other areas of Virginia, you should continue to water through Thanksgiving.
The autumn months are a great time to aerate your lawn. In dry summer months, the soil can become compacted, making it harder for water to get to the roots. Aeration is a process that pokes holes in the lawn to allow for water, air and essential nutrients to reach the root system. Be sure to aerate with pull plugs that remove small “plugs” of soil to ensure maximum benefits (instead of simply poking holes in the ground). It may seem like you’re tearing up your lawn, but it will recover quickly at this time of year and regrow healthier.
Aeration will improve the longevity and lushness of your lawn by creating a stronger root system. You can aerate using a border fork or hollow tine aerator, but a core aerator is the most effective option. Core aerators can be usually be rented from local garden centers and nurseries.
Fall is the best time to fertilize your Virginia lawn because this is when the roots are actively growing. After you’ve aerated, the fertilizer can reach right down to the roots to repair and strengthen more effectively. If you are fertilizing towards the end of the fall season, choose a slow-release fertilizer and look for a nutrient-rich blend. Potassium is a particularly important as it will help strengthen the roots and protect them from the cold.
Spread seeds and topsoil
After aerating, you should also take the time spread seeds and add topsoil to any thin areas. Spreading seeds will not only encourage growth in thin areas, it will also improve the density of your turf.
A thicker lawn is less prone to weed growth. If you tend to find lots of weeds in spring and summer, fall is a great time for a weed control application. If you have particularly large or problematic bald spots, you can also lay down sod at this time.
Virginia soil can be overly acidic. Lime will help neutralize the acid. A soil with a balanced pH will improve the absorption of nutrients and help microorganisms in the soil. Adding lime to your fall lawn care routine will improve your soil’s overall health. Because the lime takes several months to penetrate the soil, fall is the ideal time to apply this treatment. You can test your soil to measure the pH level to determine how much lime you’ll need.
After the lazy, hazy days of summer, don’t ignore your lawn until the first spring thaw. The fall is the ideal time to give your yard some much needed TLC. If you follow these tips, you’ll be sure to reap the rewards during the warmer months with an inviting, lush lawn.