Fall Lawn Care – Upper Midwest
As the days grow shorter, and the air starts to cool, it is important to remember that your lawn still needs your attention. In fact, fall is the most a critical time of the year for lawn maintenance. Lawns, particularly in regions that have harsher winters, go into what is commonly known as “recovery season” in the fall. Grasses in cooler climates actively grow and secure root structure in the spring. During the heat of the summer months, grass loses some of its root strength. The fall recovery phase allows the roots to gain valuable traction before the winter months.
To best assist your lawn in the fall we suggest you follow these helpful tips:
Mowing is one of the best things you can do for your lawn. The tip of grass blades has a hormone that promotes vertical growth, when you mow the tip off you are assisting the plant in expanding horizontally, closer to the roots. The best height to maintain is about 3 inches. It is a height that allows some shading and cooling for the grass, it blocks the sunlight that weeds are seeking. Go too short and you can burn your lawn, too long and you invite voles. Do not forget to keep your blades sharp on the mower for a clean cut allowing the lawn to remain healthy.
The best time to seed your lawn is early August through mid-November. (For those in snowier regions, it is recommended you seed no later than mid-September.) When laying seed be sure to lay types that are best for your region. Common grass seed for the upper Midwest are turf-type tall fescue, fine fescues, or Kentucky bluegrass. Make sure to rake your seed in so about 15% of the seed are showing, and if possible, use a lawn roller to help the seed make good contact with the soil. Be sure to water your freshly laid seed to a depth of about 6” followed by a frequent watering plan allowing for 3-4 lighter waterings a day until the seed has germinated. Once germinated you can reduce the frequency of the lawn watering. From mid-October to mid-November consider overseeding, which is the process of laying seed for germination in the spring.
Since fall is a time where grass roots actively grow, it is also a wonderful time to lay sod. Sod is a terrific way to repair larger spots in your lawn or erosion on slops. The dense sod also prevents weeds from taking hold. Use a lawn roller filled about a third of the way to help the sod mesh with the soil beneath it. Lay your sod in Mid-August through late October.
Fertilizing your lawn adds potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen into the soil and promotes plant growth. Since the fall is prime time for the grass to establish stronger roots to carry it into the winter, fall fertilization is essential. Fertilize your lawn from mid-August through mid-October There are a wide variety of fertilizers available based on lawn type, amount of shade, and personal preference. Follow manufacturers specific guidelines for the best results. Avoid feed and weed products for fall fertilization, feed and weed products work best in the spring during active weed growth.
Continue to water your lawn through late October. A good rule of thumb is a 4-6″ water depth once to twice weekly for most lawns. Do not forget to regularly check hoses and connections to reduce water waste and replace hoses with any water breaches. Make sure to water early mornings or after dusk for best results and to minimize evaporation. Fall is the perfect time to review your hose storage options for winter to best maximize the life of the hose.
Lawn aeration is punching holes in the lawn bed and soil. Aeration allows air, water, seed, and fertilizer to better penetrate your lawn which will promote healthy root systems to carry the lawn through the harsher winter months. Be sure your aeration tool punctures to a depth of at least 1 1/2 inches. Multiple options are available for aerating your lawn, from aerators that are manual, electric, tow behind for riders, and even spikes you can strap on your shoes. Consider lawn size when choosing your aeration tool.
Dethatching is the process of removing excess lawn clippings and yard waste from your lawn bed. If you have more than 1 to 1 ½” of thatch in your lawn bed, consider dethatching in September or October. Having some thatch in your lawn promotes growth, but too much can suffocate the grass. Dethatching can be done by raking, specialized handheld tools, motorized push equipment, or tow behind for riding mowers.
Broadleaf & Perennial Grass Weed Control
Broadleaf weeds are exactly that, weeds that have broad leaves. These weeds often are stronger, reproduce quicker, and can be harder to eradicate. Using broadleaf specific weed control will help in September and October since broadleaf weeds are receptive to the herbicide since they are in an active growth stage preparing for the winter. A one-time low to medium spread of broadleaf specific herbicide in the fall will be beneficial. This is also a perfect time to go after unwanted perennial grasses for the same reasons as broadleaf.
Fall is a busy time in lawn care, but the reward of a happy lawn is well worth the effort. Follow these basic fall lawn rules and soon you will be enjoying your yard whether it be grilling, yard games, roasting marshmallows over a fire pit, or just enjoying your favorite lawn chair or hammock.
Make your fall lawn care a breeze with the help of Mimbach Fleet and Supply. With our wide selection of seeds, fertilizers, weed control, tools and equipment, Mimbach is your lawn care go-to supplier. Not sure what you need? Talk with our lawn care associates who can help you make the best selections for your needs.