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What Your Lawn Needs During Autumn

Autumn is an important season for taking care of your lawn, as the cooler temperatures allow good conditions for strengthening your lawn to both help prepare it for the rigors of winter, and to help it get off to a good start in the spring.

This article and  video discusses tasks and tips for helping you to care for your lawn in the fall.  So let's look first at 9 tasks that we recommend that you do for your lawn in the fall.


  • Inspect for disease and pests.

     Each fall you should walk your lawn and look for signs of disease and pests. If you have had a wet summer, especially check for damaged areas which may be attacked by fungus. And if you see wilting and browning in irregularly shaped areas, this could be a sign of white grubs feeding on the roots of your grass. Carefully pull back the sod near the edges of suspect areas, and look for small white grubs that are shaped like the letter “C”. If you see more than 10 or more grubs per square foot, then you should treat these areas.
  • pH monitoring.

     To properly care for your lawn, about every 2-3 years you should monitor and adjust the pH of your lawn. If your pH is out of balance it affects how well both fertilizers and grass seeding will work. To test your pH, get a pH testing kit from your local nursery, and follow the instructions that come with it. If the test reveals that your soil's pH is lower than 6.0, it means that your soil is too acidic and you will need to spread lime on your lawn. And a pH reading above 7.5 indicates that your soil is too alkaline, then you will need to spread peat moss or sulfur to bring it down (helpful accessory: lawn pH acidity testers).
  • Check for De-thatching.

     “Thatch” is dense matted layer of clippings and debris that settle on top of your lawn. When the layer of thatch exceeds about 1/2 inch, it begins to prevent sufficient water and nutrients from getting into the roots of your grass, and it can also encourage pests and lawn diseases. When your thatch exceeds 1/2 inch it should be removed, and the fall is a good time to de-thatch you lawn by either vigorous raking or using a motorized de-thatching machine.
  • Check for Aeration.

     Your lawn's roots need air in the soil and good drainage. When the soil becomes too “compacted” you will begin to see excessive weeds, despite the use of good weed control, and poor grass growth, despite good watering and fertilizing practices. To test for excess compaction, take a sharp shovel and dig into your soil, if you can't easily push at least halfway down, then your soil is too compacted and should be aerated. To aerate your lawn, you can either hire a service or rent a motorized core aerator, which pulls out plugs of soil about the length of your little finger at about 3-6 inches apart (depending on the model of machine).
  • Leaf removal.

     It would not be autumn without falling leaves. Leaves left on your lawn over the winter can form a thick soggy mess that can suffocate your lawn, and therefore it is important that they be removed.
  • Fertilizing and Weed Control.

     If you have cool-season grasses in your lawn, then fall is the best time of year to fertilize your lawn. And if you only fertilize once per year, then early fall is the best time to do it. Early fall is also a good time to control perennial broadleaf weeds like dandelions and clover. You may then want to fertilize again in late fall. However, if you have warm-season grasses in your lawn, then do not fertilize in late fall as this could make the grass more susceptible to cold weather injury. However fall is a great time to control weeds in warm-grass lawns by applying a good organic pre-emergent such corn gluten meal.
  • Re-seeding bare spots

    . If you have cool-season grasses in your lawn, then fall is an excellent time to re-seed bare spots. However, if you have warm-season grasses, then spring and summer is a better time to re-seed.
  • Overseeding.

     Overseeding is a great way to keep your lawn looking nice, and it involves sowing grass seeds over the top of your existing grass. If you have coolseason grasses in your lawn, then the fall is an excellent time to overseed. To prepare for overseeding, you should rake or de-thatch your lawn, and if you are using a core aerator, you should do this before you overseed. Also, you should mow your existing grass shorter than you normally would, to allow more sunlight to reach the emerging seeds. And you will want to bag or rake up the clippings to give seeds the best chance of making good contact with the soil. Purchase grass seed that is appropriate for your particular region of the country, and set your spreader to the recommended overseeding rate. Apply water so that the soil is kept evenly moist, which may mean several waterings per day (depending on the weather), for several weeks. About five weeks after the grass has sprouted, apply a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer at the recommended rate, and repeat in another six weeks. If you have warm season grasses, then overseeding with cool season grasses in the fall is a great way to help keep your lawn looking green in the winter, while your warm season grasses are turning brown.
  • Top dressing.

     And finally, fall is a great time to “top dress” your lawn. Top dressing your lawn involves spreading a thin layer of organic soil across the top of your lawn. When done annually, top dressing builds up the quality of soil in your lawn, which enables it to support a healthier lawn. Top dressing also helps to fill in the dips and low spots in your lawn. This may be a task that you want done by a professional service. The best time to apply top dressing is after you have de-thatched and / or aerated your lawn. It is important that after applying the top dressing that it is worked down into your lawn so that is does not just sit on top of your grass.


In addition to the tasks that we just discussed, here are some tips for your lawn during the fall:
  1. Adjust mowing height and frequency.

     With the cooler temperatures in the fall and in preparation for the winter, adjust your mowing height down lower than the settings you have for the winter, but do not cut lower than 1 1/2 inches. Also, you don't need to mow as often as your lawn's rate of growth slows down (helpful accessories: ear protections; eye protections).
  2. Adjust watering time and frequency.

     Similarly, with the cooler temperatures you should reduce your watering times and how often you water your lawn.
  3. Use mulching mower to chop up leaves

    . If your lawn does not have many leaves on it, you can use a mulching mower to chop up the leaves, as the mulch adds good nutrients to your soil.
  4. Use a composter for heavy leaf fall.

     However if your lawn gets covered with a lot of leaves, then you should consider setting up a compost pile for your leaves (helpful accessory: compost tumblers).
  5. Drain gas tanks or add fuel stabilizer

    . If you have a gas-powered lawn equipment, then at the end of the season you should either drain their gas tanks or add fuel stabilizer to the fuel, as this will prevent the build-up of sludge in their carburetors over the winter (see costs and reviews of fuel stabilizers).
  6. Spray rust inhibitor on undersides of lawn equipment.

     And this will help extend the life of these machines (see costs and reviews of rust inhibitors).

  7. Add wax to top sides of lawn equipment.

     And similarly, a coat of wax on the finished surfaces, and this will help protect them as well (see types, costs, and reviews of wax).

  8. Remove toys, lawn furniture, etc.

     And finally, be sure to pickup any items so that they are not left on your lawn over the winter, which can damage the grass underneath them.


Autumn is a great time to strengthen your lawn. We hope this article and  video has given you the tasks and tips for the fall that will help your lawn to both survive the harshness of winter, and will get it ready to get off to a great start in the spring.

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