Cheat Sheet: Fall Lawn Care

Temperatures have started falling across Colorado and autumn is in the air! But yard work doesn’t stop on the first day of fall. By taking careful steps this time of year, you can help your lawn stay healthy through the fall and winter for a stunning revival next spring.

Raymond Poole offers 7 tips and tricks in this guide to fall lawn care.

Quick Guide to Fall Lawn Care

While it might seem like your lawn to-do list is winding down as the temperatures drop and the leaves begin to follow suit, lawn care season in Colorado is far from over.  As it turns out, late summer and early fall are the best times to take care of some long-overdue lawn TLC. Early autumn is a great time to fertilize, mow, aerate, and mulch your lawn. With a little extra vigilance this season, you can ensure a lush, healthy lawn come April.

1. Aerate

Aeration is one of the most critical tasks to complete this fall. This chore, which is most important for heavy, waterlogged soils like clay, is a process that will allow water and oxygen to reach the roots of your plants more effectively.

Aerators can be rented from most lawn and garden centers for less than $100 a day – a bargain if you consider that purchasing an aerator (which only needs to be used about once per year) will cost you quite a bit more. Aerate in late August or before your warm-season grasses go dormant. Be sure to water your lawn thoroughly before and after aerating.

2. Fertilize

Evaluate your lawn carefully as the seasons change. Once it starts to brown and enter dormancy, grab the fertilizer. Even if it seems like your lawn is dying, the grass is still developing roots and needs nutrients. Fertilizing in the fall will ensure that your plants have enough nutrients to survive a harsh winter.

3. Reseed

Did Fido’s favorite spot result in a dead, ugly spot on your lawn? Or perhaps you got a bit lazy and “forgot” to move the lawn tools and trash barrels from the same spot all summer, leaving behind a barren reminder of your neglect.

Late summer or early fall is the best time to reseed any dead spots, as cooler temperatures are more conducive to setting seed. Make sure you water a few times per week until seedlings have reached about an inch in height. Avoid fertilizing newly planted grass so you aren’t at risk of burning it.

4. Rake

This is an optional step because leaves left to rot on your lawn will actually help fertilize your grass. However, they can be unsightly and lead to excessive mold growth. In some cases, it’s better to rake and dispose of leaves as they fall from your trees.

You don’t need to worry about bagging your leaves – instead, collect them and use them as mulch for the flowerbeds. Best yet, consider installing a mulching attachment on your lawnmower to mulch the leaves for you. Once that’s done, you can either leave the fragments on your lawn or collect them in a bag attachment.

5. Mow

Mow your lawn one final time before the snow falls. This may seem like an odd task, especially if temperatures have begun to drop to near-freezing at night. However, mowing in the fall is important as it reduces the likelihood that snow mold will form on your lawn and affect next spring’s growth.

Mowing in the fall helps your grass return healthier next spring. Tall blades of grass become flattened by the snow or winter lawn traffic, which can suffocate new grass development in the spring. Cut your grass to less than two inches for the best results.

6. Water

Just because the temperatures aren’t in triple digits anymore doesn’t mean you can forego watering your lawn. While there might be more rain and dew, and significantly less evaporation, this time of the year, watering your lawn is still important.

Your plants need to stay hydrated in order to enter a successful dormancy period. Use a rain gauge to track the moisture of your lawn and keep your irrigation systems running until the first freeze. When freezing temperatures arrive, you will want to disconnect and flush your sprinkler system to avoid frozen pipes.

7. Organize

While early September may seem too soon to start worrying about winter, late summer and early fall are crucial times for planning for the colder months ahead. Create a simple fall lawn care checklist and stick to it.

Each step in your lawn care guide has to be completed at the correct time. Fertilize too late, and your grass won’t absorb the nutrients. Aerate in the spring, and you’ll find yourself saddled with hundreds of weeds. Make a calendar and get organized ahead of time, and you’ll be rewarded with a verdant lawn no matter what changes the seasons bring.

Raymond Poole is an organic cooking and gardening fanatic. He spends his free time trialing and testing different growing techniques to make his beloved fruit and vegetable garden to flourish to full flavor.

Originally published November 2, 2017 — Updated April 30, 2020