It’s ok. You can admit it. It happens to me too. The fall garden clean up can be very time consuming and it’s easy to forget to take care of some of the items that were on your “to-do” list. After a long summer our lawns start to look a whole lot better when the more consistent rainfall and cooler temperatures associated with fall arrive. It’s easy to forget that your lawn has needs too but for those of you who forgot to take care of your lawn in the fall this article is for you!
The first thing you want to do is to make sure your equipment is ready for spring. Your lawn mower probably needs to be cleaned up. You should make sure the blade is sharpened, the oil is changed and perhaps a new air filter and spark plugs are in order. If you have a mower or string trimmer that runs on gasoline now is the time to get your gas can filled up for the season ahead. If you didn’t drain the gas out of the mower and trimmer in the fall you’ll want to do it now and refill them with fresh fuel. After all, you’ve got to have the right tools to do the job properly!
Now you need to turn your attention to the lawn itself. You need to rake out the thatch which is a layer of material that accumulates between the grass and the soil. Removing this allows the grass to grow better by allowing nutrients and water to more easily get to the grass roots. Although it is better to do in the fall, at least in my opinion, if you have soil that is easily compacted, such as you find with clay soil, you can aerate the lawn. This improves drainage in the lawn and is done with a machine that makes holes in the lawn by pulling out cores of soil. You can leave the cores on the lawn to break down in the next few weeks.
If you have bare patches or brown patches where there is no green grass you can rake these out and reseed them with the right variety of grass seed for you area of the country. If you have larger areas to fill in you may want to consider using sod which is just a roll of grass that is held together by its roots and soil. If rainfall is not as reliable as you would expect it to be in spring you’ll have to be sure to water the seed and sod to ensure it grows properly.
The next step is fertilizing your lawn. Just like any other plant your lawn needs food! There are a variety of lawn fertilizers available. Some also include a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent crabgrass and other weeds. If you’ve planted seed you want to be sure you don’t put down a fertilizer with this pre-emergent herbicide or the seed won’t sprout. If you have a problem with weeds such as dandelions you want to pull them now! If you have larger weed problems you may want to consider using a product that kills weeds but be sure you buy one that indicates it won’t kill the grass!
Finally, you can get around to the most common task of all; cutting the grass itself! You’ll want to check the height of the wheels on your lawnmower. A good rule of thumb is to be sure you’re not taking off more than 1/3 of the grass blade when you mow. The grass will grow quickly at this time of year so you may need to mow more frequently. At least now you’ll be all caught up on your lawn “to-do” list!