Autumn is upon us and with winter rapidly approaching, you’re probably not spending much time thinking about your lawn. But during the fall of the year, with its cooler temperatures and occasional rainfall, is the ideal time to prepare your lawn for next spring. Just because it is the fall of the year, don’t make the mistake of thinking your lawn needs less care. In fact, it is just the opposite. During this autumn time of year, grass is absorbing energy, moisture and nutrients in preparation for a seasonably long, dormant winter. Giving it some attention now will reward you with a lush, healthy, weed-free spring lawn. Just follow some of these lawn management tips.
Apply pre-emergent herbicide
If you have not applied a pre-emergent herbicide to your warm season turf, now is a good time to apply. You want to control those weeds like henbit, annual blue grass (poa-annua), dandelion, deadnettle, chickweed, dollarweed, wild violet, etc. Some of the common chemicals to use will have active ingredients such as prodiamine, dithiopyr and pendimethalin. Apply now and again in early spring and for best results, follow the product labeling. Fighting winter weeds now can help prevent and lessen weeds in the early spring.
Check the lawn for turf diseases
The transition into the cooler weather of fall can create optimal conditions for the growth of certain lawn diseases which favor high humidity, cooler temperatures and cloudy days, which often occur in the fall. Make sure to check your lawn closely for any signs of disease on a regular basis so you can treat the disease before winter. Use products that have active ingredients such as propiconazole, azoxystrobin, chlorothalonil, myclobutanil, etc.
Begin fall fertilization
If you choose to do a fall fertilizer application, you can begin this now through November. A fall fertilizer application (Ex. 5-15-30) will encourage root growth and development and will also help grass green up quickly in the spring and is often the most helpful fertilizer application of the year. Get a soil test done and check the pH of the soil, because you may need to amend ag limestone.
Continue mowing lawn and consider mowing shorter
Even in the fall you must keep mowing until your lawn stops growing but consider cutting it shorter to prevent mold by reducing harborage for the mold spores and other fungal diseases. Start by lowering the mowing height gradually before cutting your lawn very short at the last mow of the year. That will allow more sunlight to reach the crown of the grass, and there will be less leaf to turn brown during the winter.
Note: As you lower the blade, just remember not to trim off more than one-third of the grass blades at any one time. If necessary, gradually lower the cutting height until the time of the final two cuttings.
Clean up leaves and other debris
October generally marks the beginning leaf drop, and it is important to raking and keeping debris (also piles of debris and leaves) off your lawn. Layers of leaves can trap in moisture and prevent airflow, which can promote disease, and piles of leaves left on your lawn can provide shelter for rodents, roaches and other pests.
Keep watering your lawn
Your lawn will still benefit from regular watering at this time, even though it is not actively growing as it was in the spring and early summer. Still aim for one inch of water a week, especially if you are still getting hot days, but usually after October you will likely not have to water anymore.
Aerate the soil
Fall is also an ideal time to aerate your lawn so that oxygen, water and fertilizer can easily reach the grass’ roots. The self-propelled machine will quickly punch holes into the soil and extract plugs of dirt.
Prevent lawn damage
Leaving items such as lawn furniture, toys, planters, pots, tools and other miscellaneous items laying around your yard over the winter can cause the grass underneath these items to yellow, brown or die. Simply put these items away in storage for the winter and bring them out again in the spring.
Contact your local extension office at 369-4951 to schedule an inspection and for more accurate timing on chemicals and fertility for this specific area. For more information on this subject, please visit our website: www.extension.msstate.edu.