Tips on fall lawn care

As the growing season comes to an end, there still are many gardening tasks to carry out before the snow flies.
Due to the near drought summer conditions we faced, our lawns have taken a beating this past season. But a little fall preparation will get them up to snuff and prepare them for a healthy start next spring.
September is the month you want to apply fall lawn fertilizer to your lawn. Following the rules from the previous column on fertilizing, you will select a high-quality fall fertilizer.
A fall fertilizer will be formulated differently than a spring one for your lawn.
A fall fertilizer, for instance, will have a lower nitrogen content (the first number) than the next two numbers. A higher middle number will ensure the roots of your lawn are healthy before winter sets in.
You also can purchase fall lawn fertilizer in a weed-’n-feed formula, but only use this formula if you had a lot of weeds in your lawn this past season.
If you have only a few weeds, you can dig them out of your lawn by hand, instead. No need to apply pesticides to your lawn if they are not necessary!
You can use fall fertilizer on the ground before you seed a new lawn or on patches in your existing lawn. Because the nitrogen content is low in fall fertilizer, it will not burn your tender new shoots.
Do not apply a weed-’n-feed formula to the areas you wish to seed as the pesticides can burn the tender new shoots. And remember to always follow the directions and safety precautions exactly as described on the package when applying fertilizer.
September also is an ideal time for seeding a new lawn or patches of lawn. We still will have some warm days that will allow the grass to develop, and the traditional fall rains will supply the seeded area with ample moisture.
If we do not receive adequate rain, make sure you water the seeded area regularly.
Let the newly-seeded lawn area grow until freeze-up and do not mow it down before snowfall. The new roots will benefit from the insulation provided by the long new grass.
Mowing will come to an end very soon. It is best to let your grass grow to about four-five inches in the fall before winter sets in. A longer lawn in the fall will provide your grass with extra nutrients and the roots with a layer of protection as it is covered with snow.
Good housekeeping of your lawn and garden are a necessity this time of year.
You will want to make sure you rake all of the leaves off your lawn before the first snowfall. Leaves decaying on your lawn over winter can harbour diseases, insects, and fungus that can kill your grass.
Besides, the fall leaves are a valuable resource for the gardener, so do not leave them on your lawn (a future column will cover the values of fall leaves).
Like with your perennial garden, make sure the ground beneath your lawn is well watered before the final freeze-up. A lawn that is well watered will freeze solid and prevent frost heaving and spots of your lawn to die over the winter season.
The extra moisture also will give the lawn an advantage during spring thaw as well as reduce winter stress.
As winter sets in, regular mowing of your lawn will be replaced by snow shovelling. But by following these fall lawn care tips, you can comfortably put your lawn mower away for the season and be assured your lawn will return next spring healthier than ever.

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