When fall arrives, it’s time to start thinking about how to ensure your lawn is ready for the chilly, winter months ahead. Lawn care practices change in the fall as your lawn tries to take in as much nutrients and moisture as it can. Depending on whether you live in a Cool, Transition or Warm Zone area of the United States, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure you have a healthy lawn come spring.
Click on your zone below to learn what you need to do to keep your lawn in good shape come rain, snow, sleet, or whatever else winter may bring! Happy lawn care!
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Cool and Transition Zone Lawn Winterization
Homeowners in the Cool and Transition Zones should plan for the following activities each autumn:
- Adding seed to thicken an existing lawn. If your lawn is looking thin, or if you need to fill in some bare patches, now is the time to reseed. Talk to a turf specialist at a garden shop or university extension agent to find out what type of seed is best for your lawn conditions. Spread the seed over your existing lawn and then water lightly and regularly, making sure the reseeded areas stay moist until the new grass grows in. (Transition Zone homeowners with warm-season grasses should also consider the option of overseeding their lawns to keep them green through the winter.)
- Dethatching. A certain amount of thatch (the tightly packed layer of organic matter between the grass blades and the soil surface) can benefit your lawn, but if the layer exceeds ½ inch, it can keep moisture and oxygen from reaching the soil and can harbor fungus and insect pests. If your lawn needs to be dethatched, you can rent a vertical mower or hire a professional to do the job for you.
- Aerating. Older or heavily trafficked lawns can suffer from soil compaction. A core aerator with hollow tines will pull small plugs of soil out of the ground, allowing increased movement of water, nutrients and oxygen into the soil. You can rent an aerator or hire a professional to aerate your lawn for you.
- Raising your mower blades. Let your grass grow a bit taller in the fall, usually between 1½ and 2½ inches. If you cut it too short, you’ll severely limit its ability to make and store food for growth in the spring. If the grass is too long it can become matted, which leads to problems as well.
- Winterizing your irrigation system. If you live in an area where the frost level extends below the depth of your irrigation pipes, be sure to shut off the water to the irrigation system and drain all the pipes before the first freeze.