Before your Augusta lawn settles into its winter nap, there are a few autumn chores to perform. Otherwise, your turf will wake up on the wrong side of the bed come springtime.
Help your lawn make a statement in spring with our handy fall lawn care checklist for Augusta. Leave the aerator, fertilizer, and dethatcher in the shed, but have your rake, mower, and pre-emergent herbicide on hand.
1. Rake leaves
Every time you rake the lawn, new leaves seem to clutter the ground within minutes. It’s easy to throw your hands up in defeat, call it quits, and hope the leaves will decompose by winter.
But a thick layer of leaves covering your lawn is unhealthy for your turf (and it’s an eyesore, too). A blanket of leaves blocks the sun from reaching your turf and prevents the grass from photosynthesizing. If you don’t remove the leaves in autumn, you may discover a dead lawn in spring.
Removing leaves also helps prevent disease and pest outbreaks. Plant debris, such as leaves and twigs, can harbor pests and fungi that will take hold of the lawn in spring.
2. Time the last mow
Your Augusta lawn will eventually stop growing as the autumn temperatures drop. Once you expect the grass has stopped growing, perform the last mow of the season.
Other fall lawn care checklists might suggest you mow lower than usual for the last mow, but there’s often no need. You especially don’t need to cut any lower if you already mow your grass on the low end of its recommended mowing height.
Mowing low also can be stressful for your turf if you suddenly chop off more than usual. Never mow more than one-third of the turf blade at a time. For example, if you usually cut your grass down from 3 inches to 2 inches, it will stress your turf if you cut down from 3 inches to 1.5 inches.
3. Continue to water
Summer may be over, but your watering chores aren’t. Continue to water the lawn through autumn to encourage a healthy root system. The deeper and stronger the root system, the more resilient your lawn will be in winter.
Are you watering your lawn the right way? Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:
- Water your grass when it shows visible signs of thirst, such as wilted leaves or a blue-grayish appearance.
- The best time to water your turf is before 10 a.m. (preferably before 8 a.m.). After 10 a.m., the rising sun will quickly evaporate the water.
- Avoid water in the evenings. The lawn will struggle to dry, and the moist environment will attract pests and diseases.
- Watering less often and for long periods promotes a deep, healthy root system. Watering too often and for short periods encourages a weak, shallow root system.
- Most established lawns need 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week. Dormant lawns typically require ½ inch of water per week. How much supplemental water your lawn needs per week will vary depending on many factors, including grass type, soil type, rain levels, and air temperatures.
- Only water the lawn when temperatures are above 40 degrees. Cold winds can make tiny droplets of water freeze to the grass. A layer of ice on the lawn that persists for more than a month can suffocate the turf.
4. Winterize your irrigation system
Since frozen pipes aren’t much of a concern here in the South, pipes aren’t insulated or carefully placed to evade the cold. But that’s why our water pipes are vulnerable when temperatures finally do drop.
Frozen pipes often lead to broken pipes because the frozen water expands and breaks the pipe. You can help avoid broken sprinkler heads, cracked plastic, and burst irrigation pipes by draining and winterizing your irrigation system before freezing temperatures hit.
5. Overseed for winter green
Most lawns in Augusta grow warm-season grasses because our summers are long and winters are mild. Warm-season grasses turn brown and go dormant late fall through winter. They green up again once warm temperatures arrive in spring.
If you want to encourage a green lawn late fall through winter, consider overseeding your warm-season turf with perennial ryegrass. Perennial ryegrass is a fast-growing cool-season grass that prefers cool temperatures. It will green up your dormant winter lawn and fade once your warm-season grass takes hold in spring.
When to overseed: You don’t want to overseed with perennial ryegrass too early in fall. Temperatures are still warm enough for your warm-season grass to grow and outcompete the perennial ryegrass. But if you overseed too late, then the perennial ryegrass won’t have enough time to establish before winter.
Mid-October through mid-November is the best time to overseed a warm-season lawn with perennial ryegrass.
6. Apply pre-emergent herbicide
If annual winter weeds are a common headache in your lawn, autumn is the perfect time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide. Apply the herbicides when soil temperatures are approximately 70 degrees and dropping. Always read and follow the herbicide’s instructions.
Keep in mind that frequent weed problems are often signs of an underlying lawn issue. Healthy lawns are less susceptible to weeds than unhealthy lawns. If weeds are a constant burden in the yard, you may need to reevaluate your lawn care routine.
Caution: You usually cannot overseed and apply herbicide in the same season. Herbicide will kill the grass seed you plant. Decide which treatment your lawn needs the most this season.
7. Prep the garden beds for winter
Prepping your lawn for winter will help ensure healthy growth in spring. The same goes for your garden beds. If you don’t winterize your garden beds, your perennial plants may succumb to pests, diseases, and weeds. Your struggling garden will distract from your pristine lawn come springtime.
Here are some winterization tips for your planting beds:
- Remove weeds and dead annuals. Otherwise, pests and diseases might overwinter in the plant debris.
- Divide the perennials to help minimize competition for space and nutrients.
- Insulate the garden beds with mulch to help regulate the soil temperatures. Otherwise, your plants might grow too soon if the soil temperatures rise on an unusually warm day.
- Give the plants a deep watering before the cold temperatures arrive.
Fall lawn care brings success in spring
The secret to a green lawn in spring is good lawn care in fall. If you skip out on your fall chores, such as removing plant debris and cutting the grass, pests and diseases will have a field day in spring.
And remember, you needn’t go overboard with the lawn care. Dethatching, aerating, and fertilizing can all wait until spring and summer. Performing those treatments in the fall will only stress your warm-season turf before winter.
Would you prefer to scarf down a burrito at Nacho Mama’s instead of pulling weeds and cutting grass? Crossing off your fall lawn care checklist might not be the most exciting way to spend the afternoon. Call up a local lawn care professional who can mow the grass while you enjoy your favorite spots in Augusta.
Main Photo Credit: Meghan Schiereck | Unsplash