If you think of your neighbor's yard when you hear the phrase, "The grass is always greener," don't stress. Cultivating beautiful green turf takes some effort—but we're here to help.
Follow these five fall lawn care tips, and you'll be well on your way to snagging one of those "Yard of the Month" awards next year.
1. Ensure your lawn is weed-free
If you weren't on top of your weeds this summer, you don't get a pass just because cold weather is coming. Certain weeds can overrun parts of your lawn in the fall as your grass begins to become dormant for the winter—so make sure you've done all you can to eliminate them as part of your fall lawn care.
Soft soil makes it easier to pull weeds with deeper roots. So the best time to attack may be a day or two after it rains.
2. Adjust for your final mow of the fall
Your final mow of the season is a significant part of your fall lawn care. Put your mower on a lower setting; your grass should be about 2" high after you mow. You should also bag your lawn clippings to make more room for the seed and fertilizer you'll be laying down.
When you should stop mowing will depend on the weather in your region. But essentially, your last mow of the season will be when your grass stops growing. You'll know it's about time once the high temperatures no longer get above 50 degrees.
3. Prepare your soil
If you want green grass, seeding and fertilizing is another fall lawn care necessity (fall is a peak growing season for cool-season grasses). But before you put down grass seed and fertilizer, you should aerate your lawn. Aerating helps break up the soil, so it can better receive the seed and absorb nutrients from the fertilizer. If your soil is too compact, the seed won’t have a chance to take root.
It's best to aerate when the ground is soft—a day or two after a good rain. If there's no rain in the forecast when it’s time for you to aerate, you can water the lawn yourself the day before.
Aerating can be done on your own if you rent or own an aerator, or you can hire a specialist to aerate for you. (Often, if you're paying someone else to aerate your lawn, you can also pay them to lay down seed and fertilizer.)
4. Seed and feed
Now that you've prepared your soil by aerating, it's time to lay down the seed and feed it. In early fall, the combination of soil that's still warm from the summer and air that's cooling down provides the perfect atmosphere for planting grass seed. Fertilizing after seeding will not only help new grass find its roots before winter, it also will help existing grass develop deeper roots.
Another fall lawn care tip is to fertilize a second time (several weeks after the initial seeding and feeding) to ensure the grass gets enough nutrients.
Different types of grass require different types of seed and fertilizer, so do a little research or speak with a local garden pro if you’re not sure what types to get.
5. Water, water, then water some more
Besides fertilizer, grass seed requires ample amounts of water. You should water your lawn for 5-10 minutes after initially laying down seed and fertilizer.
From that point on, you'll want to water every day that it doesn't rain—you need to keep the ground moist for the seed to have a chance to grow. (If you get heavy rains, you may be able to skip a day of watering.)
For ideal fall lawn care, it's better to water in the morning or evening, as the warmer temperatures of the afternoon can evaporate the moisture and negate your efforts. You may consider investing in a sprinkler timer to make this task easier.
You can stop watering your lawn once the low temperatures start to dip below freezing consistently. By this point, you might be seeing some fresh green grass popping up across your yard. (Watch out for envious neighbors!)
Keep it up. You're getting smarter about home buying.
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