(Family Features) - When you've mulched the last of the leaves, your fall lawn care isn't quite done. This transition time from your lawn's active growth to its healthy dormancy is when you need to take some extra care to help prepare it for next year's growth.
"For generations, lawns have served as Americans' natural playgrounds," said Ben Hamza, Ph.D., director of technical operations at TruGreen, the nation's largest professional lawn care service. "Because of the annual wear and tear lawns receive, homeowners' lawns and landscapes can benefit greatly from proper care during the fall as roots continue active growth and store reserves needed for next spring's growth spurt."
Here are the things you need to do now in order to prepare your lawn and your landscaping for the dormant winter months.
Thoroughly walk your property and inspect lawn, trees and shrubs. Identify problem areas in need of treatment, pruning or replacement. Note patchy areas, where grass has thinned out or is in need of valuable nutrients and appears as light green. Also look for weed and pest infestations and overgrown shrubs and trees, especially those with the potential for interfering with roof and power lines. Consider a qualified expert, such as TruGreen, to properly gauge your lawn and landscape needs.
Aeration is a process that mechanically removes small plugs of turf, thatch and soil from your lawn, leaving small holes in the turf. The plugs scattered on your lawn break down after a week or two and blend back into the lawn, feeding nutrients back to the root system. Aeration opens the soil, letting more water and food reach the roots, helping them grow stronger. If your lawn has significant thatch or soil compaction, it should be aerated at least twice a year.
A little well-timed pruning goes a long way toward improving your landscape and protecting your investment.
When pruning your trees and shrubs, TruGreen recommends the following techniques:
- Use sharp, high-quality tools that are matched in size to the job so they cut without tearing.
- Trim small branches up to 1/2 inch in diameter with hand shears.
- Cut branches up to 1 inch in diameter with loppers.
- Cut large branches of one to two inches in diameter with a pruning saw.
- Shear formal hedges with hedge shears.
Fall is the ideal time to seed bare lawn areas and overseed healthy grass to improve lawn thickness and density. After a detailed inspection of your lawn's thinning spots, your TruGreen specialist could recommend one of the following reseeding techniques:
- Spot Seeding - fills in small areas that are thin or infested with weeds.
- Overseeding - generally used for larger areas where the turf is thin, but not bare.
- Slit Seeding - a premium service using a specialized machine to cut slits into the soil and sow turf seeds directly into the slits.
Lightly rake an inch of surface soil to remove dead debris and properly prepare the area for seeding. Select a grass seed that is the same type as the grass already growing in your lawn. Lightly apply seed to the soil surface and gently pack to firm the seed into the soil. Apply a light layer of straw or seeding mulch to encourage rapid seed germination. Water lightly until the seed has fully emerged. Do not apply crabgrass preventive to newly seeded areas of your lawn.
Mow and Mulch
Here are some tips on proper mowing technique:
- Letting grass grow tall and then removing more than 1/3 of the leaf blade is called scalping and can damage the lawn. Mowing grass extremely low can also damage the lawn by cutting into the crowns of the plants.
- Dull blades can shred grass and cause discoloration at the tips because frayed grass blades lose moisture easily. Sharpen the blades of rotary mowers several times each growing season. Reel type mowers usually only require sharpening once a year, but adjust them to ensure they cut cleanly.
- Recycle grass clippings and leaf mulch to reduce water loss, lower soil temperatures, and return nutrients to the soil. Plus, you'll save the trouble of bagging and keep clippings out of already-clogged landfills.
A good fall feeding gives roots of lawns, trees and shrubs the energy needed to prepare for a healthy spring green revival. Keep fertilizer on target to prevent run-off and sweep fertilizer granules that may reach pavement back onto your lawn. Use a trained specialist, such as TruGreen, for insect and disease control measures customized to your region to help trees and shrubs thrive. If you fertilize your own lawn, make sure you read and follow the directions on product carefully and sweep all fertilizer granules that may reach pavement back onto your lawn.
During the fall months, lawns should get around one inch of water every two to three weeks. Too much water can expose your lawn to fungus growth when the temperature drops, but just enough will keep it healthy before the cold months. Watering evergreen plants in the fall and winter is especially important if the weather has been dry and/or windy. It's a good idea to maintain adequate soil moisture until the ground freezes. When you water, be mindful of the water restrictions in your area.
Visit www.TruGreen.com for information on customized winterization services, including lawn, tree and shrub expertise prescribed and delivered by trained specialists.
Benefits of a healthy lawn
Among the environmental benefits of a healthy, well-maintained lawn are:
- A 2,500-square-foot lawn produces enough oxygen for a family of four for a year.
- One acre of grass produces more oxygen per year than one acre of rainforest.
- Eight healthy front lawns have the cooling effect of 70 tons of air conditioning, which is enough for 16 average homes.
- Turf's high growth density nearly eliminates run-off in favor of infiltration, which then increases the amount of water entering the soil.
- Plush lawns trap smoke particles and more than 12 million tons of dust and dirt annually.