Q & A on getting your grass ready for the cold winter months ahead
Christopher J. Brown is a lawn care expert at Teed & Brown Lawn Care for Distinctive Homes, Norwalk, CT.
What are some of the most important things to consider when it comes to Fall lawn care?
Fall is a perfect time to replant bare areas and get your lawn to fill in nicely. Take advantage of the Fall weather to get the lawn in great shape for the following year. Make sure to spend some time in September assessing the situation and repairing as needed.
Scientifically speaking, what happens to the lawn in the Fall and Wintertime?
It goes dormant. This is essentially the plant version of hibernation. Prior to the winter, the grass stores some food reserves in the roots for the following Spring. In the winter, it’s completely dormant, hence, no need to mow.
What about the leaves that fall from the trees? Can I leave them on the ground for a bit or do I need to rake them right away?
Certainly they can remain for a few days, but sooner or later the lack of oxygen and sunlight will take its toll. I’d recommend a minimum of three Fall cleanings on a typical lawn. Weekly is best if you have the time, or the money to pay for such services.
What about watering the lawn in the Autumn?
Because of the cooler weather, you probably won’t need to do as much watering as in the Summer, but make sure to water seed daily. Once seed dries out, it stops growing completely and waits for more water. Beyond that, just keep an eye on the color of the grass and the amount of rains you’ve received. If it hasn’t rained in a few weeks, and the grass is browning out, water every other day until it retains the nice green color.
Should activites on the lawn be limited during the Fall? Can people stomping around cause damage?
As long as the grass is actively growing, have at it. After all, lawn’s aren’t purely decorative. If the kids can’t play some soccer, football, or other sports, what’s the point? Once the grass stops growing though, then it can no longer repair the damage through new growth.
What myths do people have about fall lawn care that you have found to be incorrect?
That the lawn should be mowed super short. I don’t know where this got started, but for some reason, I’ve run into a lot of folks who think the grass should be cut at about 1 ½ inches in the Fall. Not only does this put unnecessary stress on the grass, but it really doesn’t look good in my opinion.
What should I do in the fall and winter to ensure that the lawn kicks off to a good start next Spring?
First, make sure to reseed any and all bare spots in September to allow for sufficient growing time before it gets too cold. Water those spots daily until they’ve filled in enough to tolerate and require mowing. Second, keep the leaves off as well and diligently as possible. Finally, apply a winterizer right around Thanksgiving. This is a fertilizer that helps the grass build up sufficient reserves in the roots for the following year.
What common mistakes should be avoided?
Using any chemicals without a professionally diagnosis. I realize this is difficult to find sometimes, but people are far more aware today about environmental impact of what we do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen homeowners go spray insecticide or fungicides on their lawns just because a few patches were browning. Spraying chemicals unnecessarily is the first mistake that we need to eliminate as much as possible.
Steps on how to prep your lawn for winter
1 Assess all thin and bare patches in September and seed as necessary.
2 Water new lawn seed daily.
3 Apply a Winterizer fertilizer around Thanksgiving time.
4 Keep leaves off the yard as they fall.
5 Kick back with a big mug of eggnog and enjoy the coming yardwork-free months!
BY THE NUMBERS
Get to know lawns across America
27.6 million Acres of turf grass in U.S.; 21 million acres in home lawn.
80 Percent of all U.S. households have private lawns.
1/3 Acre is the size of an average American lawn.
80 Percent of homes have a lawn and account for 18 million acres.
50 Million homeowners maintain residential lawns.