Enjoy autumn, but don’t forget your lawn

Follow these tips so your lawn looks fabulous next spring

There’s so much to love about autumn — crisp temperatures, the return of football, pumpkin spice lattes – the list goes on. But your lawn is begging you not to “fall” for the hype completely. Follow this advice from Thomas Baker of ThisOldHouse.com to help make sure your lawn looks fabulous when the world turns green again.

1. Remove the leaves.
A carpet of colorful autumn leaves looks nice and is fun to play in, but it’s no good for grass. Blow or rake the leaves away as often as you can to make sure your lawn gets enough light and moisture.

2. Keep cutting, but to the correct height.
Grass continues to grow until the first hard frost, so keep it trimmed to a 2½- to 3-inch height. Any longer, and it will be vulnerable to fungi; any shorter and you could compromise the grass’s roots. And here’s a bonus: regular mowing chops up those autumn leaves and leaves behind a soil-enhancing mulch.

3. Continue watering.
While it's true that there's more rain, more dew and less evaporation at this time of year, that may not be enough to keep your grass well hydrated and healthy going into the winter. You can track how much water your lawn is getting with a simple rain gauge, and if it’s not getting at least an inch of water a week, keep the sprinklers or irrigation system running until the end of October.

4. Loosen the soil.
Regular aeration prevents soil from becoming compacted and covered with debris that blocks water, oxygen and nutrients from reaching the soil. Punching holes in your turf gives fertilizer a clearer path to the roots, where it can do the most good. Speaking of which...

5. Add fertilizer.
Just as grass roots need water to last the winter, they also benefit from a shot of fertilizer nutrients. Adding a slow-release, granular fertilizer helps protect roots from freezing and gives your lawn the energy to bounce back in the spring. Just make sure not to spread fertilizer too close to waterways, as they are vulnerable to contamination from runoff. Experts suggest a 5-foot buffer.

6. Spread seed.
Overseeding existing turf not only blocks weeds, but it also fills in bare patches. And fall is the best time to overseed because the ground is still warm, moisture is more plentiful, nights are cool, and the sun is not as hot during the day.

7. Stay on schedule.
Each of the steps above has to be done at the right time for best results. Otherwise, it's wasted effort. You may want to consult with a lawn care professional about the right order in which to perform lawn maintenance. If it still seems overwhelming, you may want to just hire that professional to do the work for you.

Bonus: Check out these 70 fall decorating ideas from Country Living.

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WBTL-0783 (Sep. 19)

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