Preparing for a New Season: Fall
Preparing correctly for a new season is absolutely necessary when it comes to your lawn care -- mowing properly isn’t enough. There are ways to get the healthy lawn you’ve always wanted just by preparing everything correctly at the beginning of a season. As summer slowly drags away and fall moves forward, the following steps should be taken to continue your healthy lawn habits.
Tuning up your lawn mower should be number one on your list of things to do before the new season starts. You should start by changing your oil. Make sure your oil is designed for lawn mowers and not automobiles. You can dispose of old oil at a local mechanic shop, usually for free. (Click to change your mower's oil.)
If you have a gas powered mower, you should also drain old gasoline and leave the tank empty or add a fuel stabilizer. Old gas can really mess up your engine if it sits too long. Next, replace your air filter, especially if your mower has been sitting around in storage or it just hasn’t been replaced in a long time. Dust can collect and problems could arise with the way your lawn mower functions. Your lawnmower’s spark plugs should also be replaced at least once a year. Make sure that you get the correct spark plug though, because it does matter. (Click to replace your mower's spark plug and air filter.) If your lawn mower’s belts look worn, cracked, or damaged in any way, they need to be replaced. There is no way to repair a damaged belt.
Sharpening your lawn mower’s blades is probably one of the most necessary steps to preparing your lawn mower, because this is what actually cuts the grass. Without sharp blades, there is no point in even preparing your mower. If you mow while your blades are dull or dirty, the grass is more likely to tear then cut. When grass tears, the grass dies, and this causes brown spots. It is important to check your blades every couple of months to make sure they aren’t dull. While you sharpen your blades, you can clean them as well. (Click to clean your mower's blades and click to sharpen your mower's blades.)
After you’re done with preparing your mower for the new season, it’s a good idea just to clean and lubricate the moving parts. You can spray your mower’s motor with degreaser, let it sit, and then clean it off with water. You can lubricate the motor, wheels, etc. with oil or grease. Now that your mower is prepared, you can begin to get your lawn prepared.
As fall moves closer, our thoughts move to raking leaves. As much as we dread doing it, it needs to be done. Not only does raking your yard move the dead leaves out of the way, but also it helps control thatch. Thatch is the layer between the green vegetation and soil. It is made up of partially decomposed material and is considered excessive when it is over a half of an inch thick. Deep raking can prevent thatch build-up.
Also, aerating your lawn can remove unwanted thatch. Aerating is the process of punching many tiny holes into the ground to allow water, oxygen, and other nutrients to enter the soil and root layer. It is preferred to aerate in the fall because it will help stop the spread of unwanted seeds. Aerators can usually be rented from a local lawn care/hardware store. They can also be purchased but professional machines can be expensive.
Aeration can also help repair a compacted lawn. A compacted lawn is exactly what it sounds like -- compacted. The soil is so squashed together that the nutrients can’t reach the roots. You can tell a lawn is compacted when the ground feels hard, you can’t easily put a shovel into it, and/or weeds are very present. Areas of high foot or vehicle traffic are usually very prone to compaction.
Fall is also a good time to fertilize. When the grass is still actively growing, large amounts of fertilizer can damage it. Fertilizing frozen soil, wet grass, frost covered grass, or snow dusted grass can cause grass death and could cause mold damage. October or November (or a couple weeks before the ground freezes) is preferred because this is when the grass slows its growth and becomes more dormant for the winter, but has not yet completely stopped growing. Grasses in the Northeast region of the United States recover from the spring and summer heat during the fall. Before fall even starts, around the late summer months, a light round of fertilizer should help when the fall round of fertilizer is laid down. Grass needs to be able to grow back after winter and providing the correct nutrients at the correct times during summer and fall is essential. Fall is a time of preparation, and if you prepare correctly, your grass should flourish after the snow melts in the spring.
Fighting off weeds in the spring time is always a hassle, so applying herbicide at the right time in the fall can make your life a lot easier. Just as it is preferred to put down fertilizer in the fall, it is the same for herbicide. Building up your lawn’s weed immunity in the fall will help is so when the grass starts growing after winter, less unwanted weeds grow. Each herbicide is different, so it just depends on what kind you buy. Some of them have timing restrictions, so when you’re shopping, keep that in mind.
The last major thing you could do to prepare for the new season is overseed. Overseeding is when you plant more grass over current grass; whether the current grass is still living or is a bare, brown spot. Grass, just like any other living thing, doesn’t live forever. After about five or six years, the growth reduces and can eventually come to a halt. Overseeding not only repairs your grass, but it helps to protect it from diseases and even more death. So, if it looks like it’s time for you to overseed your grass, or just patch up a brown spot, fall is the perfect time—more specifically early fall, around September. Overseeding a whole lawn is a time-consuming task, but luckily, it only needs to be done every five to six years. If you’re ready to do your whole lawn, it’s best to ask a lawn care professional for some help. If you’re just repairing a brown spot, buy enough seed to cover the area evenly, cover in peat moss/compost/fertilizer, and water daily until sprouts begin to show. Doing this in late spring and early fall will allow the grass to grow easier, instead of being hit by harsh heat and sun that the summer brings. Along with the proper steps of fertilizing, overseeding during the fall will help your grass become healthy after winter is over.
Get the best out of your lawn this fall, so that in the winter you can sit back and relax. After the snow melts, you’ll be able to watch your hard work blossom into a healthy green lawn!