A Winterized Lawn is a Happy Lawn
A little maintenance to the yard now will give you great grass in the springtime! Follow these autumn tips for a healthy, vibrant lawn.
Let’s face it, our Colorado soil leaves something to be desired; its compact, clay-like features don’t only prevent grass roots from forking and spreading into a healthy mass, they also block access to free-flowing oxygen and water under the ground.
If left unattended, your once beautiful green sod will transform into a hard, brown, inhabitable platform that’s now good for… well… making a nice dust cloud.
Ideally, aerating should be done twice a year: once in the spring and again in the fall. If you’ve ever visited the sprawling lawns at the University of Colorado in Boulder, you’ll see results of such frequency.
If you have a big yard, it’s advisable (and well worth it) to hire someone with a machine to come over and get the job done in an hour or less, for around $25-50 depending on your square footage. For smaller, more manageable yards, use a manual aerator tool (available in your local hardware store- *wink wink*) that you can step onto every 4 inches or so in a uniform pattern to make holes across the lawn.
Then there’s the matter of all those little plugs laying around the grass after you aerate– and you can certainly leave them to degrade back into the ground–but if you really want to give your lawn a treat, remove the plugs with a leaf rake (you can then compost them or throw them away) and then rake compost across the grass in a thin layer so it deposits into the newly formed holes. The clay-reversing effects of the compost can change the composition of your sod over time and resist its natural tendency to compact.
Fall is actually the perfect time to seed. As you may know, the germination of grass seed is almost completely dependent on how much it gets watered, and evaporation in the hot summer months makes this task relatively difficult. Although the air is getting colder, the autumn ground is still the ideal temperature to induce sprouting.
We recommend a mix that’s adapted to our Colorado climate, which is (typically) dry during the summer months. You’ll find these varieties take less water and do better under stressful conditions.
Overseeding the lawn in its entirety is beneficial for the overall thickness, but you can also take care of some bald patches by raking loose exposed soil, spreading the seed, and watering it twice a day until it sprouts. After that, back off onto your normal watering schedule. Also make sure you wait to mow until after the 10-14 days it typically takes for the seed to germinate so you don’t disturb the placement of your seeds.
Think about a last feeding. The pellets will fall close to the soil and into aerated holes, getting down to the sod level and garnering a better transaction between root and fertilizer.
Fertilizing a lawn in the fall time, also known as “winterizing” is perhaps the most important feeding of the year. The slow-release nutrients in these fertilizers break down gradually over the course of the fall and into the winter, and that’s good when growing slows down and plants are not in “full swing.”
Try a natural fertilizer. Your grass’s roots will work harder to absorb the nutrients and become stronger in the process.
It’s advisable to stagger fertilizing and seeding, because high nitrogen for young grass seedlings makes them top-heavy, putting too much emphasis on the blades rather than the roots -which need to develop in the ground before it freezes in a couple months. If you want to do both seeding and feeding this fall, start with the seeds and get them growing, and wait to fertilize until mid October.
Voila. By the time the ground thaws again in the spring, your lawn will be ecstatic to get a start on the next growing season!