Fall turf tips

Fall is here and although the temperatures are falling, there is still some work to be done in your yard.  Here are some tips to help prepare your turf grass for the up-coming winter. By following these suggestions, your lawn will be healthier and may require less fertilizer or herbicides next spring.


Continue to mow high throughout the fall. Do not mow too close before winter. Bluegrass varieties should be mowed at 2 ½ in.-3 in. Research suggests mowing close depletes the grass’ root system of required nutrients and will predispose the lawn to winter injury.


Reduce the irrigation run times by 20 – 40 percent for the fall months. According to our local evapo-transpiration rates, plant water demand decreases. Continue to cut back slightly each week during the fall if you have not been deficit irrigating.

Rake the Leaves

I know raking leaves is no one’s idea of fun, but it’s important to remove fallen leaves from your lawn as soon as possible. Don’t wait until all the leaves have fallen from the trees to start raking. If you do, the leaves will become wet from rain and morning dew, stick together, and form an impenetrable mat that if left unmoved will suffocate the grass and breed fungal diseases.

An alternative to raking leaves is to use a lawnmower fitted with a collection bag or vacuum system. These methods are particularly effective if you have a very large yard with many deciduous trees. Regardless of whether you use a rake or a lawnmower, just be sure to remove the leaves before they turn into a soggy, suffocating mess.

Aerate the Soil 

Fall is also an ideal time to aerate your lawn so that oxygen, water, and fertilizer can easily reach the grass’s roots. You can rent a gas-powered, walk-behind lawn aerator for about $70 per day. The self-propelled machine will quickly punch holes into the soil and extract plugs of dirt. If you have a very large yard—say, more than 3 or 4 acres—and do not feel like aerating it yourself, hire a landscaping contractor.

Calculating fertilizer rates

Fall is a good time to fertilize your lawn. Apply one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of turf. To calculate actual pounds of nitrogen, divide the first number on the fertilizer bag, which is nitrogen, into 100.

For example, if you have a 27-4-7 fertilizer, divide 27 into 100. The answer is 3.7 pounds.

This is the amount of fertilizer to apply to 1,000 square feet of lawn to satisfy the one-pound rate of nitrogen for one feeding.

If you have 5,000 square feet of lawn, multiply 3.7 pounds by 5; and for 10,000 square feet of lawn, multiply 3.7 by 10. If you have 800 square feet of lawn, then multiply 0.80 by 3.7. If the fertilizer analysis is 33-7-14, the same calculation applies (100 divided by 33 = 3.3 pounds per 1,000 square feet).

Listed in Table 1 are application rates for various fertilizers.

The right-hand column is the amount of fertilizer to apply in one application for every 1,000 square feet of lawn.

Weed Control 

Fall is also a good time to control annoying weeds, especially dandelions and other weeds with deep taproots. Chemicals applied in the fall will be taken up by the weeds and translocated to their root system. Even if the weeds are large and do not die right away, chances are they will not survive the winter.

A maintenance program that includes aerating, fertilizing and spraying weeds in the fall will ensure that your lawn looks good come spring.