You already know that in order to keep your beautiful lawn in tip top shape it needs ample nutrients, lawn mowing, watering on a regular basis, and protection from invasive weeds and pests. Cool temperatures mean slowed grass growth and prime time for a late season seeding in preparation for spring, but do you know how to keep lawns green and provide essential nutrients throughout the fall? How about when you should stop cutting your grass?
Those fall lawn care answers depend on three key questions, including what your lawn maintenance needs are throughout the rest of the year (excessive grubs? turf diseases? brown grass?) as well as how and when your grass begins to react to cooler daytime temperatures. Most lawns require specific preparation before winter, and cutting too late into the fall can expose roots and soil to suboptimal conditions throughout the winter, when grass becomes dormant.
Here's what you should consider when deciding when to stop cutting your grass, and what you should do instead to better prepare it for a dormant, sub-zero winter and a fabulous, flourishing spring.
What Are Your Year-Round Lawn Care Needs?
An attractive lawn and healthy grass comes down to several key components. These include grass density, a beautiful green color, proper hydration and turf health. Colder months can be especially harsh on even resilient native plants, and cooler soil temps can wreak havoc on even a healthy, dense lawn if it's not well prepared for fall and winter. Cooler soil and air act as a trigger for slowed growth in the fall, so it's important to recognize when to stop mowing and when to adjust lawn maintenance to prepare for a healthy spring and summer.
If your lawn has specific problem areas, like dead patches, issues with turf disease or pest control, or shallow roots, getting on a proper watering schedule with the appropriate amount of water will help. Some lawn care companies offer organic and semi-organic pest control services and grub removal, and additional overseeding for less than lush spring lawns, if needed.
If your lawn is typically healthy and happy, fall is the time to slow your mowing frequency, gauge grass growth, and prepare your grass for winter.
What Type of Care Does My Lawn Need Before Winter?
Depending on your lawn's health throughout the year and what you'd like to change or sustain during the growing seasons, your lawn could benefit from any of the following fall lawn care techniques:
1. Soil aeration
4. Fertilizer application
Fall is the perfect time for overseeding lawns as cooler temperatures set in and grass begins to slow its growth for the dormant winter months. Because the soil surface is often dense after a long summer of lawn care and lots of activity in the grass, lawn aeration and winter weather prep are important for a strong and beautiful spring and summer lawn.
Aeration allows grass seeds to settle deeply into the soil surface and establish deeper grass roots as they emerge in the spring. Overseeding then helps promote a thicker, more lush lawn year-round, and helps prevent weed seeds from taking root instead of grass. Adjust your cutting height so that grass isn't too short going into colder months, overexposing seeds and roots to harsher weather patterns and frigid temperatures.
Application of fertilizer then delivers all the essential nutrients your green grass needs for complete seed germination during the spring growing season and protection during the colder months of winter. Mowing to the correct height (about 3 inches) and application of fertilizer before snow cover and colder air temperatures will help your dormant seeding burst into action when spring arrives. With the right amounts of nitrogen, carbon and high-quality grass seed, your spring grass blades will be able to establish healthy, deep roots. Your lawn fertilizing schedule and fall lawn care can help with that.
How Can I Tell When It's Time To Stop Mowing in the Fall?
A good rule of thumb for preparing your grass for winter months is to pay attention to grass height and growth. When cold weather begins to creep in, native plants will recognize changes in soil temperature and air temperature and begin to slow its growth. Blades of grass stop growing during the winter and become dormant, so when your grass growth slows substantially or stops in the late fall, it's time to stop mowing your lawn.
Winter grass is very low maintenance, but can benefit immensely from the proper fall lawn care steps explained above. Healthy lawns build resiliency all year long, and organic and semi-organic lawn care helps your grass become more and more resilient on its own.
There are a lot of steps to take to prepare cool season lawns for colder soil temperatures, even with average lawn conditions. If you're not sure where to begin, or how much attention your lawn needs this fall, your local lawn care professional can help.
Cool-season lawn care is a no-brainer with our tiered fall lawn care packages, and our experts can help you decide which services are right for your lawn's unique needs. Check out our fall lawn care packages for more information, and our other lawn care blog posts for more ways to grow a more resilient and healthy lawn, year-round.