We’ve been spoiled by a long, mild fall. With winter just around the corner, here are a few tips to ensure your lawn wakes up healthy and happy next spring.
First and foremost, with the lack of fall precipitation, make sure your soil is moist. If you see areas of your lawn that appear drought stressed, apply 1-2 inches of water. If we get fall moisture before the ground freezes it likely won’t matter. If we stay with our dry trends and get only snow on frozen soil your lawn will suffer winter injury and be slower rebounding next spring. With the future unknown it is better to act now.
The application of fertilizers in late fall can improve the vigor of turf. Late fall fertilization increases the plant’s carbohydrate reserves which help resist winter injury and improve the plants’ resilience next year. Another benefit of late fall fertilization is an increase in root mass. A soil test will tell you for sure, but if you have been diligent in applying a fertilizer containing phosphorous and potassium, you likely only need to apply light nitrogen this fall. In fact, you may have adequate phosphorous and potassium for several years. A basic soil test will let you know.
Perennial Weed Treatment
Perennial weeds are those that grow back from the roots each year. A classic example is field bindweed. Other common ones are dandelion, quackgrass, mallow, plantain and Canada thistle. Established plants often require proper timing and fall is the best time to hit them hard. After a hard frost, the treated herbicide is pulled deep into plant tissues as it retracts resources from the outer leaves in preparation for winter. November is typically too late for herbicide application but this year we still have a short window. Don’t apply any ‘weed and feed’ type products intended for crabgrass or other annuals. Our winter annual weeds that germinate in the fall aren’t problematic in a healthy lawn.
Mow and Rake
Make your last mowing lower than normal, about two inches. You should also rake up leaves. Although leaves provide excellent organic matter, if left on the grass under snow they can suffocate it. A leaf covered lawn will take longer to come out of dormancy next spring. Un-raked leaves can even cause bug problems and root rot around the base of trees. Longer thatch also harbors more voles. Avoid having your lawn excessively tall and flopping over going into winter. Rake away leaves and debris from under shrubs, especially low-growing shrubs like some junipers, as this provides cover for voles.