Four last-minute tips for fall lawn care

Photo: istockphoto.com/Eric Delmar
Want a perfect lawn next spring? Some simple fixes now will help.

The temperature is plummeting and frost threatens. Your lawn is the last thing on your mind. But if you can rake some time for some last minute care you will reap the benefits next spring.

However, autumn is arguably the most important time for lawn care and there are a few vital steps that you should consider, even at this late stage.

1. Don't put your lawn mower away just yet

Continue mowing your lawn until it's gone into dormancy. Grass shuts itself down for the year based upon weather conditions; with a mild autumn, grass might not go dormant until mid November. You'll be able to easily determine when it has, as the grass will brown and lack vigor.

When mowing late in the year, drop the blades down low and remove any clippings. This is important because it helps ward off snow mould, the most common lawn disease in Canada. Snow mould, if it takes hold in your yard, leaves unsightly patches and retards the growth next spring.

2. Clean, sweeten and aerate

For the same reason, it's important to rake leaves off the lawn and to rake aggressively any areas of heavy thatch.

Late autumn is also a great time for applying lime. Not only does this sweeten the soil, but it reduces thatch as well. Pelletized lime costs more, but is easier to apply.

Aerating is also a good idea. This procedure allows roots to breath easier and improves drainage. Also, if done before fertilizing, it speeds the leaching of the granules into the soil and hence into grass roots.

3. Final meal

The most important thing to do for a lawn in late October and early November is to apply a final feeding of winterizing fertilizer. This needs to be done before the grass goes dormant, obviously.

In most lawn fertilizers the nitrogen content will be the highest, but this shouldn't be the case in a good winter formula. At this time of year, you're looking for a fertilizer with a relatively high phosphorous and potassium ratio, perhaps as much as 2 or 3 times that of the nitrogen content. The benefits of such a formula are several, all designed to help your grass survive the winter and emerge healthy next year.

Winterizer fertilizer increases nutrient reserves in the roots, develops root size and strength, increases cold tolerance, and heightens resistance to disease.

By fertilizing late, you ensure that the nutrients are stored in the roots for use early next spring — before you can get out and apply another serving — rather than being used up by actively growing grass.

4. Do it now

Autumn is perhaps the most important time of year for lawn care. Give your lawn some TLC now, and come next summer it will be healthier and less chemical dependant.

The end result is gorgeous turf, the envy of the neighborhood.

Andrew Hind is a freelance writer specializing in eco-friendly gardening.