The mower may need to be put away soon, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop caring for your lawn.
Fall is the best time to assess the lawn and take steps to ensure it looks its best next spring and summer, according to two University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service experts.
Doing so may mean planting a cool-season grass seed to get the lawn healthy again or evaluating maintenance associated with cool-season grasses.
“Fall is actually the best time to evaluate cool-season grasses, like tall fescue, that have just experienced high, summer temperatures,” write Becky Griffin, a turfgrass associate, and Clint Waltz, a turf specialist, in a recent release from the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“Take a walk around your lawn,” they write. “How happy are you with your grass? Are there bare spots? How much of a problem were weeds this summer? And most importantly, how much time and money are you willing to put towards improving your lawn?”
The first step in any lawn renovation is a soil test, they write. The local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office will conduct a soil test for a nominal fee.
In addition to the soil test, it’s also important to remove as many weeds as possible, roots included, from the lawn. If the weeds can’t be removed by hand, a herbicide may be used, but be certain not to apply it to areas where you plan to plant grass seed.
Griffin and Waltz explain that when planting grass seed, it’s best to mow the lawn to about 1/2 to 2 inches, bagging the clippings. Remove any additional grass and debris with a rake.
“The low mowing height and aggressive raking may cause the lawn to look bad, but the goal is to allow the grass seeds to reach the soil,” they say. “Now, aerate the grass. Aerating removes plugs of soil, opening air holes. It allows air and water to get to the roots of the grass more readily and gives roots some room to spread out. The plugs, or cores, will disappear after a couple of mowings or rains.”
Planting a cool-season seed is really a matter of preference of the homeowner, but the planting is the same. Seed should be planted directly into the lawn. Experts call this interseeding.
The two also note that for “larger bare areas, top the seedbed with a light layer of compost and pack it down. Consider using a light straw mulch.”
Within four to six weeks, the lawn will begin to look noticeably healthier.