The fall weather is a favourite time of year for many Canadians. As many of us head out to walk the dog, go for a hike, or watch the kids play football, that cool, crisp fall air that makes us zip up a little tighter reminds us of the harsh winter months that will descend upon many regions in the coming months. When winter does hit, your lawn goes into hibernation. It shuts down as a plant system as a defense mechanism to handle the cold winter extremes. While the weather is still comfortable and your grass is still growing (and hopefully healthy), now is the time to make sure your lawn is prepared to handle the drastic changes winter brings so that you and your lawn can just “chill” over the winter, knowing the grass will emerge green and healthy next spring. Fertilization Fall is the most crucial time to fertilize your lawn. It is during the cool days of fall that the grass plant slows its top growth and begins storing nutrients and sugars for the harsh months ahead. The storing process continues for as long as the plant is green. Fall fertilization is critical as this is the time when the plant is building reserves to maintain its health and thus determines the quality of next summer's lawn. Nitrogen and potassium are essential parts of this process. These nutrients are also extremely beneficial in increasing the plant's resistance to damaging diseases, which will often attack when the plant is in a weakened state. If you are a Weed Man full program customer, your lawn’s fertility requirements are covered. However, you still may wish to discuss whether your lawn may benefit from an additional fall fertilization with your local Weed Man. Fall Aeration The benefits of fall aeration to your lawn cannot be stressed enough. This service reduces soil compaction, excessive thatch, and provides a top dressing for the lawn. By breaking up compaction and removing excess thatch, the infiltration of fertilizer nutrients, sunlight and air down into the soil is greatly improved. With this improved movement of needed elements, root growth is stimulated. The grass plant can reach and store more nutrients and water necessary to improve its health and stress tolerance, which will directly benefit the lawn's quality next summer. Even if you had an aeration done in the spring, your lawn would still benefit from an additional aeration. If you have questions regarding how your lawn will benefit from a fall aeration, please contact your local Weed Man professional. Proper Mowing While proper mowing is essential all season, it is particularly important in the fall months. Fall is a great time to ensure the following where mowing is concerned:
- Re-sharpen your mower blade. A sharp blade is always the best for your lawn to make sure it is cut cleanly and won’t leave the tips shredded or torn; causing potential disease issues as well as discolouration. A sharp blade also helps with mulching leaves; which can provide a natural source of beneficial nutrients for your grass.
- Mowing Height- In the early stages of fall you can continue to mow at the desired height of cut of approximately 7.5 cm (3”); which for most residential mowers means setting the wheel height 1-2 settings above the middle setting. For your final mowing of the season it is ok to mow a little shorter at around 5 cm (2”); which usually means the middle setting or at the shortest one setting below the middle. This shorter height of cut reduces the amount of foliage exposed to the winter elements; which helps minimize snow mold diseases common in the early spring.
- Mulch Leaves- If you have a mulching mower, try to mow often enough to mulch light layers of leaf cover back into the lawn. This is a natural source of valuable nutrients that will benefit your lawn heading into the winter months. Mulching also minimizes the amount of raking and leaf removal that needs to be done. If the leaf cover is too heavy, you will likely have to bag your clippings and/or rake/blow excessive clippings to keep the grass relatively clear of heavy debris. Allowing excessive layers of leaves to sit on the grass over the winter (or leaving your grass too long) will smother the lawn, causing a lot of disease issues and a slow green up next spring.
Raking As mentioned it is important to remove all large piles of debris that cannot be mulched back into the lawn with your lawn mower. Lawn mower attachments are available that chop grass and leaves into tiny bits that provide a light top dressing which will supply nutrients to the soil as they breakdown. Large quantities of debris will not breakdown quickly, and so will damage the lawn by suffocating it, and by giving a moist home to damaging disease organisms. For more information on fall lawn raking, please see an earlier blog post entitled “A Time of Change”. Following these simple steps will allow you and your lawn to enjoy what’s left of the summer/fall months. And you will have the peace of mind in knowing your lawn has been properly prepared to “chill” healthily over the cold winter months ahead. For more information please visit our website or contact your local Weed Man for a free inspection.