Now is the time to give cool season lawns the best boost of the year

Autumn, with crisp morning air and warm days, is one of the best times to get the lawn in shape for winter and next year. A little help now will make stressed and weakened lawns recover from heat and drought stress.

Lawn growth slows in the fall in response to shorter days, so we don’t have to mow as frequently. It’s a good idea, however, to mow as needed until the lawn full stops growing late in the season. As the leaves fall from deciduous trees, it is fine to mulch light accumulations into the lawn that will save you time and benefit the turf. Shredded leaves are a good source of organic matter and supply some nutrients to the lawn. Just be sure you’re using a mulching mower that chops clippings and leaves into finer particles that will break down and improve the soil.

Perhaps the most important lawn fall lawn care practice is core aeration. Aerating supplies the underlying soil with air and allowing for more efficient water penetration. It reduces soil compaction and helps to reduce thatch buildup by allowing macro and microorganisms to breakdown thatch layers. Apply lawn fertilizer after aeration to allow nutrients to move into the root area.

Be sure to thoroughly and deeply water the lawn the day before scheduling aeration. This allows for plugs to be easily pulled at the deepest level. Mark your sprinkler heads, any shallow irrigation lines and shallow utility telephone and cable TV lines to prevent damage.

Aeration is most effective when the equipment removes cores or plugs of soil and thatch from the lawn. The aeration holes should be two to three inches deep and three to four inches apart. Sorry, spiked golf shoes will not accomplish aeration!

As long as the weather remains favorable and the lawn continues to grow, it’s essential to continue providing nutrients. As previously recommended that you put down fertilizer around the first of September (Labor Day), I recommend applying Richlawn Fall and Winter Turf Food another time around the end of October (Halloween). Apply at the recommended rate on the label and water in well.

Take advantage of the nice weather and get out there and do your lawn a favor this autumn. The time you take now will pay off in a healthy and vigorous lawn next spring.

Though this is my last column for the year, you can glean more timely garden reminders in my book: MONTH-BY-MONTH GARDENING ROCKY MOUNTAIN  (Cool Springs Press) What to Do Each Month to Have a Beautiful and Healthy Garden All Year

Have a peaceful and happy autumn and winter. May your garden grow and prosper!

John Cretti-Horticulturist
“Gardening with an Altitude”