Feeding your lawn before the winter protects and enhances your lawn’s health in the spring. There are some great local hardware stores with spreaders, fertilizers and programs for fall lawn care. Some thoughts to consider before you visit your local shops or browse online:
Know what your lawns needs
Treating your lawn begins with selecting the best blend for your needs. Examine the areas of concern. Pay attention to whether the area is sunny or shady; receives excessive moisture or is water starved; and finally, proximity to walkways and trees. There are specific blends to help all of these conditions.
Keep up with lawn maintenance
Even as grass begins to go dormant, you should stay on top of mowing and removing weeds from your lawn. Removing weeds in the fall protects the root system of your lawn during the winter. Leaf removal is also important. Compacted leaves will choke your lawn both of air and sunlight. A new blade and bagging your lawn will help get excess debris from piling on your grass.
Feeding late yields good results in the spring
Adding seed late in the season allows bare patches and weak points to establish heading into the winter. You may not see the results immediately but fortifying your lawn through the winter will yield results in the spring. My lawn is well established so I patch a few spots then feed the entire lawn with a winter fertilizer. Prepare the soil surface before spreading seed. Good soil contact is necessary for seed to take root. Loosening soil with a handrake will help bare patches and loosen thatch in healthier lawns.
If your lawn is extremely thin, you may consider adding just fertilizer this fall. Next spring consider renting a vertical mower (also known as a mechanical rake). These machines remove thatch, loosen the soil surface and ensure the seed makes solid contact with the soil. While vertical mowers work well, they are expensive, heavy and create a lot of cleanup. Homeowners should always either rent this type of machine or employ a professional lawn care company to apply the seed.
Why not wait for the spring?
By feeding in the fall, you should avoid impacting your water bill. That is, lower daytime temperatures won’t require extra watering due to day time evaporation. Just one session of watering typically keep soil damp all day. Overnight temperatures are similar to the spring which is conducive to grass establishing. The combination of warm evenings, short days and rainfall typically keep the ground moist. Provide a healthy start to this new grass growth by monitoring daily rainfall and changes in temperature.
Spring often is more challenging than the fall for helping new grass seed. Excessive rainfall and extreme temperature changes are more common in the spring than the early fall.
Aerating a lawn with established grass growth offers many benefits heading into dormancy. Whether you rent an aerator or hire a landscape professional, your root system will improve with this process.