Fall is the time of year to fertilize your lawn, prepare for winter and get a head start on spring.
“If you want a healthy turf in the spring, you need to feed your lawn’s root system in the fall,” says Michael Gaffney, certified turfgrass specialist with the Professional Lawn Care Association of America.
For some turfgrasses, growth slows in the fall but the roots continue to grow even in very cold weather. The root system will thicken to provide a denser, healthier lawn in spring.
“As a general rule, feed a lawn about a month before it goes dormant,” advises Gaffney. “Fertilize at the right time and in the right amounts. Improper fertilization can weaken the root system.” For fertilizer rates and recommendations, contact your local lawn care professional or your cooperative county extension agent.
Fertilizer provides nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and certain key elements like iron. The root absorbs these nutrients along with air and water. Sunlight helps turn these nutrients into sugars, which are used to fuel plant processes such as maintenance and growth. Excess sugars are stored in the root system to stimulate root development during the dormant period and fuel re-growth in the spring. It’s also important to regularly remove leaves from your lawn during the fall to keep the plants exposed to the sun’s rays.
Gaffney also recommends aerating the soil of cool-season turfgrasses in the fall. Warm-season turfgrasses should be aerated during the summer when they are in their most vigorous growth period, especially if the soil seems hard and compacted. “Healthy roots require not only water and nutrients, but oxygen as well. Aerating the soil helps break up the thatch layer and allows the roots to breathe.”
Do your part for the environment; invest in a healthy, well-maintained lawn this fall. A healthy turf filters groundwater, retards the spread of fire, and absorbs pollutants, dust and pollen.