Summer is usually the most stressful time of year for your lawn, when it receives most use and, unfortunately, most damage. Autumn, accordingly, is the perfect time to check for damage and treat any symptoms of wear and tear. In autumn, specifically September and early October, temperatures are still warm enough to stimulate growth, making this is the best time for your lawn to heal and prepare for winter.
The primary aim of autumn lawn care, therefore, is to set things in order before the onset of winter. By winter, low temperatures and frost will prevent growth and slow absorption rates, making it difficult for your lawn to repair. It’s also simply not a pleasant time of year to be working the garden!
Repair summer damage and get your lawn in good shape in autumn, and you could be pleasantly surprised in spring the following year. This period of winter chill should preserve your hard work, in time for another successful year of enjoying your lawn.
As autumn draws in, shorter days and lower temperatures will slow grass growth, meaning you will have to mow less frequently. Furthermore, it is advisable to allow your grass to grow a little longer in autumn. This will encourage deeper root growth and retention of moisture. This is particularly important at the time of year when organic processes are slowed and nutrients are absorbed less quickly.
Keeping your grass at around 2 or 2.5 inches is advisable, and this will only require fortnightly mowing. In tandem with mowing, it is also worth flattening uneven areas in your lawn. Dips and troughs can result after heavy summer use and can be flattened out with an edging iron or spade. It is advisable to aerate the lawn afterwards and bring the turf level into line with the rest of the lawn. More on that later.
A well-levelled lawn left to grow a little longer will be in a good position to resist the ravages of winter, meaning less work in the springtime.
Apply a Weed and Moss Killer to the Lawn
Autumn is a particularly good time to apply a weed and moss killer product to your lawn, especially if you intend to overseed later. It’s good to do prior to scarifying the lawn too. The process of applying a moss and weed killing product then scarifying will help kill and remove more of the weeds and moss than you could by just scarifying. After you apply a weed and moss killer, you’ll see that they have died and turned black within a couple of weeks. A spreader like the Scotts Evergreen Drop Spreader can make this task much easier by ensuring the correct amount is applied per square metre of lawn. The correct application is essential. Apply too much in one area and you’ll scorch the lawn.
Scarify to Tackle Moss and Thatch
Raking, or scarifying, keeps levels of dead moss and thatch (old grass stems and other debris) at a minimum. Moss and thatch can prevent water and fertiliser from penetrating deep enough to reach the roots of your grass. It’s generally better to scarify in Autumn over Spring because you can rake/scarify a bit deeper. If opting for Spring you’d have to be more delicate so as not to scarify too deeply into the turf because it may not recover during summer conditions (drier, hotter, more use). Scarifying should get rid of all that dead moss and weeds as a result of your weed and moss killer. For larger gardens you might consider using an electric or petrol scarifier as it will make things go a lot faster and easier.
Aerate to Improve Drainage
Now, time to improve the drainage of your lawn. Areas of your lawn that receive heavy traffic in summer can become very compacted. This in turn causes drainage problems, as well as more weeds and moss. Considering you just got rid of a lot of that, if not all, you don’t want to give it a chance to thrive again. To aerate, simply push a garden fork into the ground as far as it will go, then wiggle it out. No need to use excessive force when wiggling, as this will create larger holes than necessary. Do this every 3-5 inches. For larger gardens you might consider an electric or petrol aerator to help move things along.
Feeding and Overseeding
Along with spring, autumn is the best time for lawn feeding. Damp conditions and continued growth will allow a well-drained and aerated lawn to shore itself up for winter when nutrient absorption and growth will slow dramatically.
Accordingly, it is best to feed first of all at the start of autumn, allowing you to take advantage of the maximum period of continued growth without the problems of summer heat, drought and increased lawn use, which can impede growth and nutrient absorption.
At the beginning of autumn, a granular feed such as Miracle-Gro Evergreen Autumn is recommended as this releases a steady amount of nutrients over a period of weeks, perfect for supporting the growth rate which increases over a similar period. Most granular feeds will come with the recommended rate; it best to adhere to this and apply when the soil is moist. You can achieve this by watering first or applying when rain is expected.
Autumn is also the best time of year for overseeding, as summer lawn use is likely to have left bare or worn patches on your lawn. General stress to your lawn during summer may also have thinned out your lawn more generally, and so a blanket overseeding can be necessary.
It is a good idea to feed and overseed at the same time. Seed mixed with slow-release fertiliser is available. Use a lawn spreader like the Scotts Evergreen Drop Spreader to distribute the mixture evenly. The soil must, however, be moist, so be sure to water your lawn a little first or apply seed when rain is expected. Patch repair kits are also available, should you need to encourage a little extra growth in a particularly worn part of your lawn. You can also apply a fertiliser first separately but be sure to leave application of the seed for a few days afterwards or until the fertiliser has dissolved. This will help you to avoid over and under applying seed since the covering of fertiliser will be gone, making it easy for you to see your seed application Be sure NOT to use a spring fertiliser as the high levels of nitrogen can cause the grass to be damaged when winter frosts set in.
Autumn is undoubtedly the best time of year to trim the edges of your lawn and beds, as well as make other cosmetic changes. The season is uniquely well-suited to this practice because decreased use and growth will allow edges just enough time to grow in nicely for winter.
After summer, lawn and bed edges can have become overgrown or, depending on the shade caused by your garden vegetation, unevenly grown in. There are several ways to ensure neat edges which will become set for winter.
If your lawn edges aren’t straight, use a plank of would to determine a straight line and cut along with a half-moon edging tool. Be sure to clip any overhanging grass to ensure a straight edge. If your garden has paving stones or pathways, it might be worth investing a power edger which, when kept at the level of the stone, will cut away neatly any protruding grass.
For edging beds, it is best to use a pair of scissors as a closer cut will be necessary for this to look neat. Don’t forget to collect the cuttings from the bed for compost or, alternatively, do your edging just before a scarifying session, and pick up the cuttings and other debris in one go.
Ready for Winter
Done all that? Great job! Your lawn is in the best place to be ready for winter and the following spring. If you’ve never cared for your lawn to this level before you might be in for a shock at how good your spring lawn will look. There’s still a few more things you can do for your lawn in winter which you can read in our winter lawn guide.
You can find our other seasonal lawn care guides here:
Other Useful Link: Lawn Care Calendar
If you’d like the how and when of lawn care broken down further, then have a look at our lawn care calendar at the link below:
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