Although many people associate summer with great amounts of lawn care, the fall is actually an opportune time for fertilization, weeding and establishing new lawns. Also, fall cleanup will keep the lawn disease free when spring rolls around.
Fertilizing the lawn at the beginning of fall keeps grass color throughout the winter season as well as helping the lawn recover during spring. Fertilizer should be applied in September. Fall fertilizer should be higher in nitrogen and potassium while lower in phosphorous.
Watering should be done in the fall to keep moisture levels up. Winters can be very dry, causing the lawn to become weak and die off. If it does not rain for several weeks in the fall, it is important to water the lawn lightly. An irrigation system should be run before the first hard freeze of the winter to prevent freeze injury to the grass.
To prevent spring weeds, September is the time to spread a pre-emergent weed control in the grass. Pre-emergent controls kills the seeds that create weeds, preventing their growth. Identifying the weeds in your area that need control will help in choosing the right pre-emergent formula.
Fall is a good time to remove the dead-grass layer that is lying on top of the soil in your lawn. This is called thatch. When thatch gets too thick, it kills off living grass by preventing water and nutrients from getting into the soil. Also, since it is dead material, it becomes a food source for fungal infections. Using a rake in the yard will help break up thatch and allow you to remove it. Also, leaves should be removed from the lawn as, again, it is dead material and can be used by fungus as food.
Mowing the lawn before the first hard frost will assure your grass is not so long it harbors disease and winter pests. Cutting the grass too low can cause damage, though, so it is a good idea to leave it at a medium height. Different grasses require different heights, so it is best to check what your grass variety is and cut it to the recommended length.