As autumn comes around and the weather begins to change, it’s no secret that garden care takes a dramatic turn. Gone are the warm days of summer – with those refreshing showers that help our lawns to thrive and stay healthy and green. Whilst there is a different approach you will need to take, this isn’t to say that autumn lawn care is any more challenging than the summer lawn care.
So that your lawn is prepped and ready for the harsh winter conditions there are a few jobs you will need to carry out to strengthen its roots throughout autumn. They not only make sure your lawn survives the cold temperatures and poor growth, but also allow you to get to work right from the get-go in the following spring without any setbacks. Just follow my advice below and you will be well on your way to a properly prepared lawn.
Since the growing conditions become worse as the year goes on, you are going to have to reduce how often you mow your lawn to account for slower grass growth.
For example, if you mow on a weekly basis, once autumn hits and you begin to see slower growth, then you could start mowing every 10 days in the beginning and work your way down from there.
The key is to do this gradually. Doing it more swiftly could be a shock to the lawn and could result in an unwanted outcome.
Now, in most cases, you want to keep the mowing height quite high as you do not want to cut the grass too short at this point.
Although, this isn’t the case for the last two mowings.
You can actually set the height lower than usual to promote better sunlight exposure for the grass blades, especially the shortest ones, which therefore promotes better growth.
This also makes it less likely that your grass will turn brown.
Unfortunately, you may notice that there is a significant amount of moss on your lawn after the summer and this can be frustrating. However, one of the key aspects of good autumn lawn care involves removing this moss.
I’d definitely recommend tackling this job before you attempt any sort of feeding and it isn’t challenging to do.
There are two main types of moss killer – liquid or granular and both are equally effective, it’s down to your personal preference as to which one you opt for. But whichever version you choose, it is essential that you check the ingredients since many moss killers may have large amounts of nitrogen, which is perfect for your spring lawn but not so great for autumn lawns.
Once the moss killer has worked its magic, you are free to begin the scarification process to remove it – we’ll cover this topic a little later in this article.
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There is no doubt that your lawn will go through quite a tough time during winter, so it is best to strengthen its roots as much as possible. This means giving it the nutrients it really needs is essential. By applying a fertiliser you will help strengthen its roots to promote better growth and help it combat diseases and pests, just make sure you use an organic mix as the results produced with synthetics will be short-lived and won’t contribute to the long term health of your lawn. You might not see immediate results but it will be well worth it in spring. It’s important to keep in mind that where working in the garden is concerned – patience really is the key.
Also, make sure you use a fertiliser that is designed for autumn instead of one designed for spring. Autumn lawn fertilisers are high in potash and potassium, which help protect the lawn in frosty and icy conditions – which, as you will know are all too common in the UK.
Spring fertiliser on the other hand is high in nitrogen, which promotes healthy and strong grass growth, this will fall victim to the frost resulting in either disease or damage or both. As I said before, you want to begin spring without any setbacks and applying the correct fertiliser is crucial in order for the metabolic process to be successful.
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If your lawn has any slight bumps and hollows then applying a topdressing can even it out – as well as correcting surface irregularities, improving the texture of the soil and thickening out the turf. Furthermore, the top dressing will act as a fertiliser over the long term giving your lawn a much better chance at being healthy, especially as it faces a potentially long, cold winter. In addition to all of this, adding a layer of top dressing will mean that the drainage is vastly improved. It’s no secret that a waterlogged lawn is not going to thrive in the way that you want it to, so it is essential to consider this when preparing for winter.
You want to apply the topdressing when it is dry and make sure you add a mix that is made up of sandy loam, sharp sand and compost depending on the type of your soil. You should work it in using the back of your rake until it covers all bumps and try to get coverage of about 2-3 kg per square metre. For more info on applying your topdressing and the mixture ratio read my post “How to Top Dress Your Lawn“.
Scarifying / Raking
Layers of thatch can prevent proper penetration of water and fertiliser to your grass roots, so clearing the amount of dead grass, dead moss and autumn leaves on your lawn etc. found on your lawn is very beneficial.
To dig up all the thatch drag a spring-tined rake through the grass until you have covered the whole lawn, or until you feel you’ve dug it all up. This will free up loads of space for you to access the grass roots so you’re best applying your fertiliser after you’ve cleared up all the remaining thatch. As we all know, raking your lawn manually is hard physical work. Alternatively you can use use a powered lawn rake or scarifier that will complete the job much quicker and more effectively.
Autumn is a much better time to do this rather than spring. The lawn is far less delicate now than it would’ve been near the start of the year, so you can dig a little deeper and rake less delicately.
This is another process that opens up access to the grass roots. There are many benefits to be seen by aerating the lawn – just look at the following:
- Reduce soil compaction.
- Help the lawn to cope with extreme conditions much more easily, including drought or, in contrast, heavy rainfall.
- Give much better movement of air, nutrients and water within the soil.
If you don’t have any severe problems then you will be fine using a garden rake to puncture the holes (aim for about 10-15 cm apart), but if you need to treat damage caused by water-logging or soil compaction then you’re better going with a hollow-tined aerator. This extracts plugs of turf which gives even better access to the roots, just make sure you rake them all up and apply your topdressing afterwards.
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Levelling The Lawn
If you have bumps and hollows that are little too big and deep to be dealt with topdressing then you’ll need to make adjustments to the lawn. This isn’t a difficult process, provided that you follow the correct instructions, which I have detailed below.
- With a spade slice down the centre of the bump or hollow to split it in half.
- Now push your spade underneath one side of the turf to cut its roots and then pull it back in a strip. Do the same for the other side.
- Either remove (for a bump) or add (for a hollow) soil to the required height and then fold the strip back and stamp down on the turf using the spade.
- Make sure you’re using the same soil, or at least similar, to that of your lawn. If you have both bumps and hollows then you can just recycle the removed soil.
Make sure you keep these watered over the next few weeks to ensure proper growth.
With all these jobs carried out properly I’m positive you’ll have something great to look forward to next spring.
Autumn Lawn Care Checklist
It isn’t difficult to see that there are quite a few things to take into consideration when preparing your lawn in the autumn months. It is vital that you arm yourself with the correct tools and products to make the most out of your autumn lawn care routine. Take a look at my autumn lawn care checklist to ensure you’re fully prepared for the job.
- Raise the cutting height on your lawn mower to allow for that longer grass length we discussed.
- Find moss killers and lawn feeds that are suitable for autumn use.
- Clear your lawn from leaves and debris on occasions when it is dry. You can simply brush your lawn but of course using a cordless or electric leaf blower and vacuum will make your task much more effective and efficient.
- Try to remove heavy dew since that can cause problems with disease.
Autumn Lawn Care Advice Video
If you have worked hard throughout the summer to create a beautiful green lawn that is the envy of all the neighbours, there is no doubt that you will want to maintain this throughout the latter part of the year and into the following year.
However, when tackling lawn care during the autumn months, there are some things that need to be done that are slightly different from your summer lawn care program.
In this article, I have covered a variety of topics that will help you to ensure that your lawn remains thick, green and healthy over the course of the colder months.