Fall is the Ideal Time to Evaluate Lawn Care, Take Steps Toward Better Spring Grass

Posted: August 30, 2016

Fall is a very productive time for turf grasses and they will enter a growth spurt in contrast to your other plants.
Juicy grass by Kamil Porembinski on CC BY 2.0

Juicy grass by Kamil Porembinski on CC BY 2.0

The days are getting shorter. Outside activities become less frequent with each day. This season passes into the next one, and your garden slows down.

Most of the landscape is moving into the next phase, including your lawn. Fall is a very productive time for turf grasses and they will enter a growth spurt in contrast to your other plants.

Over the next couple of months, it’s good to take a few moments, to do some quick evaluation of your lawn care efforts. If your lawn did not perform as well as expected, a homeowner can take steps to improve the quality of the turf. In doing so, the lawn will be in better shape for next year.

Renovating your turf is easier and more cost effective than planting all new grass. Even though you may have taken the best care possible all season long, fall is an ideal time to make grass even better.

First, check to see if there is too much shade. If the lawn has thinned under large spreading trees, consider trimming back the tree to allow for more sunlight.

Grass in heavy shade does not do well. If it can receive three hours of direct sunlight, a specialty seed like fine fescue may do well in a location like this. A shade tolerant ground cover might be a better choice for deeply shaded locations.

All kinds of animals can plague the lawn. Ground hogs, moles and chipmunks can damage grass by digging tunnels and burrows. Skunks will dig up sod in search of white grubs. Your family dog or cat can leave its marking. Dog urine leaves unsightly spots in the grass. To manage that, vary where the dog urinates.

Choose the right seed to patch bare spots or reseed entire portions. Only a few types of grasses are suited for Pennsylvania. Cool-season grasses are best for this reason. The amount of sunlight during the day should factor into the type of seed mixture as well. Look for high germination rates and mixes containing perennial rye grass, Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescue for a mostly sunny location. Read the product label to ensure the weed seed percentage is low, and majority of grass seed is a high quality perennial grass.

Fall is a great time to fertilize and will give you the best payoff for your efforts. If turf is underperforming, it could be missing vital nutrients and the pH could be out of range. It is a great time to amend the soil, giving fertilizers and lime time to work into the soil and be ready for next spring. The best way to determine what the lawn needs is through a soil test.

Other factors inhibiting healthy lawns are weeds and diseases. You may notice in your garden or other parts of the landscape that weeds tend to die off and symptoms of disease are lessening. But, because grass is actively growing now,  more weeds will start to pop up and your lawn is still vulnerable to diseases. The most stubborn weeds tend to come back in the fall even if they were managed earlier.

Contact Information

  • Master Gardener Coordinator, Lackawanna County
Phone: 570-963-6842