3 Essential Tasks for Fall Lawn Cleanup
Fall is a great season for lawn and garden cleanup and one of the best times to prepare for lush growth during the next spring. The cooling temperatures and occasional to moderate rainfall experienced by many areas of the country create ideal conditions for a lawn to absorb the nutrients and moisture needed before it falls dormant during the winter season. A few simple fall lawn care steps can help prepare your lawn for the next spring and summer.
Mow to maintain lawn health
Fall is not the time to stop mowing. A healthy length for most lawns is 2 to 2.5 inches in height. When grass grows beyond that height, it can lead to issues during the cold weather months, including snow mold, a fungi. Snow mold damage typically appears in the spring in patches that can vary in size from about 3 to 12 inches in diameter.
Cutting the grass too short can affect how efficiently the lawn is able to store essential nutrients during the winter months. Whether mowing in fall or any other time of year, make sure your mower blades are always sharp for the healthiest lawn — scraggly cuts not only make for messy looking lawns, but the uneven cut also can leave areas with tall patches that trap moisture.
Raking fallen leaves, twigs and seed pods helps maintain the health of your lawn and garden as well. Rain and dew dampen the leaves, trapping moisture between the debris and the grass. Allowing fall debris, in particular leaves, to accumulate on lawn and garden areas can lead to mold and fungus problems. Removing debris is a must-do when considering fall lawn and garden cleanup.
For any size raking job, consider a rake with a comfort grip handle such as the Ames 30-inch leaf rake. Its clog-free design allows you to rake large areas without having to stop and remove leaf clumps from the tines. Opt for a compact Fiskars shrub rake to remove fallen leaves and more from beneath bushes and plants in the garden. Measuring only 8 inches across, this efficient rake gets into those hard-to-reach spaces. For large lawns, a collection bag attachment for your riding lawn mower may be the ideal solution for fall leaf removal.
Aerate and fertilize
Aeration allows oxygen, fertilizer and water to reach the lawn’s roots, creating a lush, healthier lawn. Fall is one of the best times for aeration and fertilization. Aerators vary in size and are available to fit any budget. The Easy Step Plug Aerator works great for small lawns, while the Craftsman Lawn Aerator attaches to your riding mower for larger areas. The Agri-Fab 16-inch Spike Aerator is a walk-behind aerator for mid-size lawns.
The University of Illinois College of Agriculture recommends fertilizing a lawn in the early fall with a regular lawn fertilizer, saving winterizing fertilizers for late October or early November. Not sure what fertilizer ratio is best for your lawn? Contact your local University Cooperative Extension Office; you can find your local office via the USDA.
- Barb Hopkins