After a summer of trimming and mowing, you’re ready to pack up those lawn tools and take out the barbecue grills. Not so fast. Your Akron lawn needs some TLC before the winter. This fall lawn care checklist for Akron, Ohio, will help you prep your yard to survive the changing seasons.
Aerate the lawn
Lawns can get compacted during the summer. Fall is perhaps the best time to aerate lawns in cities like Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Tallmadge, Stow, Barberton, etc., and the most appropriate way to do it is core aeration.
Aeration involves a special tool that removes small plugs of soil from your lawn and allows more air, water, and nutrients to reach the roots. Aeration also reduces soil compaction and promotes microbial activity to help your soil absorb nutrients better.
Cool-season grasses common in Akron, such as Kentucky bluegrass or fine fescue, prefer to be aerated in the fall when the soil is still a little warm from the summer but the air is getting colder. The earlier in fall you aerate your lawn, the better! You can also combine this yearly aeration with topdressing, overseeding, or fertilizing for better results.
Rake the leaves
As a simple rule, rake dry leaves every few days and wet leaves as soon as you can. Fall means lots of leaves from trees all around filling up your yard. And before these leaves form a nasty layer over the turf, it’s time to grab the rake and remove them. Leaving fallen leaves on your lawn can end up in serious issues including:
- Leaves, grub, and other debris can create a mat or thatch over healthy grass and block sunlight and air
- It offers more opportunities for pests and diseases to attack
- It will gradually kill your turf
Also, don’t wait for all the leaves to fall off trees to clear up your lawn, trying to cut down on some hard work. This will actually harm your property because leaves will soak in morning dew or rain, stick together and invite tons of fungal diseases.
Summer is tough on your lawn, but the coming winters are going to be tougher. This is why fall is the prime time to apply fertilizers to help the plants grow deep roots and hold onto nutrients until the weather warms up.
Cool-season grasses require a full dose of nutrients to survive through the winter, unlike warm-season grass types that go dormant and need just a little dose of nitrogen for it. Grass roots need plant sugars to protect them from freezing and to grow back in the spring next year.
So, it’s ideal to include a health-boosting fertilization session in your Akron lawn care for the fall. But before you shower your yard with fertilizer, make sure you test the soil to know exactly what your lawn needs.
A soil test will tell you about nutrient deficiencies, pH imbalances, salt levels, or any other factors that might cause soil issues. This will help you decide on the best soil amendments and fertilizers to create a balanced and healthy lawn.
Look for a fall fertilizer that is high in phosphorus and potassium as these ingredients aid in root growth, disease protection, cold resistance, and overall drought tolerance. Your final round of fertilization should be around mid-October.
Use pre-emergent herbicide
Apply a good-quality pre-emergent herbicide in the fall for proper and timely weed control and welcome a booming spring lawn next year. Weeds usually take all winter to quietly germinate and start to sprout early in the spring. And we all know how troublesome weeds like annual bluegrass, chickweed, crabgrass, henbit, etc. can get.
Pre-emergent herbicides essentially cover your soil’s surface with a layer of chemical barrier that prevents weed seeds from growing. It is different, and better, than post-emergent herbicides that are designed to destroy weeds after they’re fully established.
One thing to always keep in mind with herbicide use is to make sure you’re not overseeding and applying the herbicide at the same time. This is because pre-emergent herbicides tend to hinder grass seed germination, just like it does for the weed seeds.
The best time to dethatch cool-season grass is early fall when the soil is moderately moist. Just like aeration, detaching can be tough for your grass. This is why fall is the perfect time to let your turf undergo these treatments and recover before it gets cold.
Thatch is not always bad for your lawn. It’s just a layer of dead and living organic matter atop your lawn grass. A thin layer would act as mulch and improve moisture retention in your lawn, but it becomes unhealthy once this thatch layer gets ½ inches thick or more.
You need to remove this layer because it will block the sun, air, and water from reaching the roots and eventually kill your lawn. Lawn Love has a detailed story on thatch, its pros and cons, and some useful prevention tips.
Remember to always remove thatch before you overseed so that the grass seeds are exposed to the soil.
Keep mowing weekly in the early fall but cut the frequency as the weather gets colder. Most cool-season grasses in Ohio tend to grow faster in early fall than in the dormant summer season. For these early fall months, you should mow your yard weekly. As it gets colder and the grass growth slows down a bit, switch to bi-weekly and eventually monthly mowing until frost starts to appear.
Mow for the final time in October, when you see your Akron lawn grass has stopped growing. You don’t want to enter winter with long grass. Long grass blades are susceptible to unattractive and messy matting, snow mold, and diseases. Colorado State University Extension recommends cutting at the same height when you mow the final time – about one-third of the blade length.
Lastly, make sure that your mower blades are sharp to give a clean, precise cut because dull blades will tear the grass and invite disease.
Winterize the irrigation system
Until the ground is frozen, your Akron lawn will need supplemental moisture in the fall. Keeping your lawn well-watered during the fall will make sure it stays healthy and green for longer.
You should winterize your sprinkler system before the temperatures drop too low or you’ll have to deal with frozen pipes, cracked plastic, and burst, or broken sprinklers.
Continue to water regularly until the first frost of the season. Cool-season grasses have a high growth rate in fall compared to the spring, hence they need a good supply of water.
Your lawn will probably need about a 1 ½ inch of water every week. Keep the soil moist with deep watering. Remember that the best time to water a lawn is early morning to allow better absorption.
Watch your lawn carefully instead of following a strict schedule. Grass appearance and color will tell you when it needs to be watered.
The best time to overseed the lawn is early fall, or around 45 days before you expect the first frost. Akron is located in Hardiness Zone 6 which means residents of the city can expect their first frost around the mid of October. The lawn care calendar from Ohio State University Extension can help you plan better.
Foot traffic, pets, and summer heat leave brown or bald patches on your lawn and fall is the ideal time to mend them. Plant new grass seeds during the growing season (fall) in these patchy areas of your lawn and let the autumn temperatures do the work. The seedlings will germinate at a fast rate because of the favorable growing conditions at this time of year.
Get your gardens ready
If you have vegetable or flower beds, you must prepare them in the fall to survive through the winter. Cold temperatures can be really hard on perennial plants as they’re susceptible to disease, pests, and weeds.
A few simple ways of winterizing your garden include:
- Separate or divide the perennials so that when spring arrives, they don’t have to compete for nutrients and space.
- Water your plants generously before the cold temperatures hit.
- Remove weeds and dead annuals.
- To regulate the soil temperatures, add a layer of mulch that will act as an insulator. This will also prevent your plants from growing too soon if the soil temperature gets high on an unexpectedly warm day
Stay ahead of common lawn issues in Akron
Akron and its neighboring cities including Kent, Stow, Cleveland, Medina, and Canton are prone to some lawn common issues. Homeowners in Northeast Ohio should actively take preventative measures to ensure they welcome a weed-free, pest-free and healthy lawn in the spring to come.
Three common diseases that develop after heavy rainfall in Akron and neighboring cities include:
Dollar spot that looks like cotton candy or spider web in the localized areas or spots. The white web-like, cottony thing is actually a fungus called mycelium. Proper aeration, dethatching, and watering in the fall and fungicide treatment will help you get rid of it.
Pythium blight appears as purple or dark-green, water-soaked leaves that form patches in the lawn and feel slimy on touch. Dethatching, aerating, and clearing dead leaves, debris, and lawn clippings from your yard before it gets cold helps prevent this disease. Treatment involves the use of fungicides.
Brown patch disease appears as irregular, brown areas in the grass. They occur due to fungal damage and the patches might also develop a grayish tan. Lawn care companies usually have a proper formula and application rate of fungicide to treat this disease. It’s best to contact one of them.
Taking care of your Akron lawn in the fall is important. You can reach out to our Lawn Love lawn care professionals to help you with leaf removal, snow removal, mowing, and other lawn maintenance tasks before the winters arrive.
Main photo credit: PxHere