Fall Lawn Care

Fall is a busy time for gardeners.  With so much to do, lawn care is sometimes neglected.  However, proper lawn care in fall helps insure an attractive, healthy lawn next season.  Important fall lawn care chores include mowing, fertilizing, controlling broadleaf weeds, and raking. 
 
Mowing
 
Continue to mow the lawn until the grass stops growing.  The foliage of Kentucky bluegrass and other cool-season grasses usually stops growing in late October or early November in Iowa.  Mow Kentucky bluegrass lawns at a height of 2½ to 3 inches in fall.  When mowing the lawn, never remove more than 1/3 of the total leaf area at any one time.  Accordingly, a lawn being mowed at a height of 3 inches should be cut when it reaches a height of 4½ inches. 
 
Fertilization
 
Fall is an important time to fertilize the lawn.  Spring and late summer fertilizer applications mainly stimulate leaf growth.  A fall fertilizer application promotes root development, enhances storage of food reserves, and promotes early green-up next spring.  Late October or early November (once the turfgrass foliage has stopped growing) is the ideal time to apply fertilizer in fall.  Nitrogen is the most important nutrient to apply in fall.  Apply 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. 
 
Broadleaf Weed Control
 
Fall (late September to early November) is the best time to control perennial broadleaf weeds in the lawn with broadleaf herbicides.  In fall, perennial broadleaf weeds are transporting food (carbohydrates) from their foliage to their roots in preparation for winter.  Broadleaf herbicides applied in fall will be absorbed by the broadleaf weed's foliage and transported to the roots along with the carbohydrates, resulting in the destruction of the broadleaf weeds. 
 
Effective broadleaf herbicides include 2,4-D, MCPP, dicamba, triclopyr, and others.  The most effective broadleaf herbicide products contain a mixture of 2 or 3 herbicides as no single compound controls all broadleaf weeds.  Broadleaf herbicides can be applied as liquids or granules.  Before applying any herbicide, carefully read and follow label directions. 
 
Raking
 
Turfgrass plants utilize light, water, and nutrients to manufacture food.  In fall, lawn areas beneath large trees are often completely covered with leaves.  The leaf debris prevents the turfgrass plants from manufacturing and storing food prior to winter.  Additionally, the leaves of some tree species mat down readily and may smother the grass.  Thick layers of leaves should be raked up and removed.  Small amounts of leaf material can be shredded with a mower and left on the lawn. 
 
Make sure that you take time out of your busy schedule to properly take care of your lawn this fall.  The reward for this fall's efforts will be an attractive, healthy lawn next year.
Category: 

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on September 12, 2014. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.