Landscape Logic: Sustainable, preventive steps to reduce future need for lawn treatments
We’re starting to wind down from the growing season. But before you give it up entirely, do a few last chores that will show your lawn you love it — and the reward will come back to you next spring.
Throughout the growing season, consistent and timely plant care goes a long way toward building a healthy lawn that needs less water and is resistant to diseases and weeds. In the fall, the practices listed below are sustainable and preventive steps you can take to reduce future need for pesticides, herbicides and other treatments for you lawn.
1. Mow one more time: A final lawn mowing late in the season makes the lawn trim and neat heading into the dormant season, but this mowing is about more than good looks. When a lawn enters dormancy with long blades of grass, it is much more likely to develop mold and other turf diseases later on. This is why turf scientists at Colorado State University recommend a final, late-season mow.
2. Don’t rake the leaves before you mow: There’s no raking, piling, bagging or disposal required if you leave the leaves on top of the lawn and mow over them with a mulching lawn mower. The mulched leaves will naturally compost into the soil, providing nutrients for the lawn.
3. Apply fertilizer: Autumn — not early spring — is the best time of the year to fertilize the lawn, say the scientists at Colorado State University. Fertilizing too early in the spring promotes unnecessary top growth and more mowing for you. Fertilizing in the fall creates healthy turf as it’s heading into the winter, helps develop a strong root system and stimulates turf that will green up sooner next spring.
When applying granular fertilizer, it’s best to apply while the lawn is still green and the soil is moist. Avoid applying fertilizer to soil that is very cold or after the turf has gone dormant, as the fertilizer won’t be used as efficiently by the plants.
4. Consider a fall aeration: Both spring and fall are ideal times of year to aerate. If you failed to aerate the lawn in the spring, you can still take advantage of fall as another optimal time to aerate. And even if you did aerate in the spring, it’s beneficial to aerate again in the fall.
Make sure the soil is moist in advance so that the aeration machine does a good job of removing the plugs of soil and thatch from the lawn. Aeration benefits the lawn by reducing thatch and soil compaction and opening up pathways for water and nutrients to move into the root zone.
5. Winterize the sprinkler system: A hard freeze — or prolonged periods when the ground is frozen — can freeze and shatter underground irrigation components. To prevent freeze damage, sprinkler lines should be blown out with compressed air in the fall.
If lines break from freeze damage, your lawn won’t enjoy being dug up next spring to make the repairs, and you won’t enjoy paying for them, either. It’s best to schedule timely winterization of the sprinkler system before temps hit freezing.
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.