Fall lawn care provides maximum return on your investment, according to South Dakota State University. Steps taken to maintain your lawn in the fall will help it look and grow its best throughout the coming year. Fall fertilization, for example, has several benefits, including a longer green period in the fall, earlier lawn greening (without excessive shoot growth) in spring and reduced summer lawn disease.
Aerate the lawn with a core aerator during the first week of September. Push the aerator over the entire lawn two or three times to encourage active root growth and a healthy soil microbial population. Leave the cores on the lawn surface. Mow the lawn the following day to help break down the dried cores.
Apply a high nitrogen fertilizer, also in early September. Measure your lawn area and then set the fertilizer so it will take several passes to put 1 pound of nitrogen on each 1,000 square feet. Push the spreader over the lawn in a north-south direction, then east-west. If fertilizer remains, go over the lawn again at a diagonal so that fertilizer is uniformly applied. Water the lawn, sprinkling for about an hour, after fertilizer application.
Make sure the lawn receives about an inch of water per week. Water the lawn unless rainfall is sufficient to meet this goal.
Deal with unwanted broadleaf weeds in your lawn, if needed, at this time of year as well. (Chemicals applied in the fall, while the weeds are storing food in their roots, are also transported down to the roots, where they have maximum impact.) Apply herbicide on dandelions, ground ivy and other broadleaf weeds according to manufacturer's directions.
Continue mowing your lawn until it stops growing. In the fall, maintain a lawn height between 2 1/2 to 3 inches, recommends the University of Minnesota Extension, but go back down to 2 to 2 1/2 inches for the last few cuts of the season.
Apply winterizing fertilizer after the last mowing of the season, again at a rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.