Fall Lawn Care Checklist for Fort Worth

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Senior man mowing lawn and mulching leaves using a riding lawn mower

When outsiders think of “Cowtown,” they might envision the dry desert of an old Wild West movie. But Forth Worth locals know it’s more like an exotic coastal paradise because of the humid, subtropical climate. There’s plenty of grass here, and it needs attention year-round. We’ll give you all the tools you need to guide your grass gently through fall and into winter with this fall lawn care checklist for Fort Worth-Arlington. 

Follow these 11 basic steps and you will keep your lawn healthy through the end of this year and make it easier to care for next year:

  1. Don’t stop watering yet
  2. Rake leaves regularly
  3. Dethatch cool-season grasses
  4. Aerate if the soil needs loosening
  5. Overseed cool-season grasses before the first frost
  6. Test the soil once every year
  7. Fertilize the right amount
  8. Prevent weeds with pre-emergent herbicide
  9. Mow until the grass stops growing
  10. Winterize sprinklers
  11. Arm plant beds for winter

The end of summer doesn’t mean the end of yard work! There’s still much work to do before winter if you want a lush North Texas lawn. 

1. Don’t stop watering yet

automatic lawn sprinkler on and surrounded by leaves in the yard
Victor Furtuna | Unsplash

Cooling fall temperatures might suggest your lawn doesn’t need as much water as it did in summer, but don’t turn off the sprinklers or hang up the garden hose just yet. Keep watering until mid-November, when winter weather starts to kick in. 

Here’s the thing about the Fort Worth-Arlington area: It’s part of the transition region, which means both cool-season and warm-season grasses do well here. Cool-season grasses will have different watering needs (and other care needs) than warm-season grasses, so it’s important to know what type you have growing in your yard.

Cool-season grass types, such as the local favorite tall fescue, grow actively throughout fall, primarily in their roots. You should support deep root growth during this time with deep, infrequent watering. Water cool-season grass with about 1 inch of water per week in fall. 

Warm-season grass types, on the other hand, go dormant in fall. Natural rainfall will likely meet watering requirements for these grasses at this time of year. You won’t need to do much (if any) supplemental watering. Bermudagrass and zoysiagrass are the most common warm-season grasses in the Fort Worth area.  

2. Rake leaves regularly 

Don’t sit idly by and let fallen leaves cover your lawn. Ideally, you should rake up all the leaves every three or four days, or at least once a week. 

Lots of leaves in the lawn don’t only look bad, they can cause severe and lasting damage to your grass. A thick layer of leaves will smother the grass by blocking water and sunlight, which is especially bad for cool-season grasses in their active growth period. 

Plant debris building up in the yard also will make your lawn more susceptible to pests and fungal diseases. 

3. Dethatch cool-season grasses

Graphic explaining thatch on grass

The best time for dethatching (aka verticutting, aka power raking) is when your grass is actively growing and the soil isn’t too dry. 

What is thatch? Plant debris like dead leaves, twigs, and grass clippings naturally build up in your lawn between the grass and the soil, then eventually decompose. That layer of debris is called thatch. 

Why should you remove excessive thatch? A little bit of thatch is a good thing, but too much can create a home for pests and damaging fungi. Plus, too much thatch will smother the lawn, just like too many fallen leaves will. 

You only need to remove thatch in your yard if it piles up to more than ½-inch thick. Any layer shallower than that is good for the soil, and you should leave it be. 

Common grass types for Fort Worth-ArlingtonGrowing seasonWhen to dethatch
Tall fescueCool-season grassEarly fall
BermudagrassWarm-season grassSpring
ZoysiagrassWarm-season grassSpring

If your lawn has excessive thatch in fall:

DO dethatch cool-season lawns in early fall because this is their growing season. 

DON’T dethatch warm-season lawns because they’re dormant in fall. Dethatch in spring instead.

4. Aerate if the soil needs loosening

Heavy foot traffic, lawn equipment, and vehicles parked on top of your lawn can cause the soil underneath to become compacted over the years. If it gets too compacted, nutrients and water won’t be able to reach your grass’s roots, which means your grass won’t grow. 

You can solve soil compaction through aeration, a process in which a machine punches holes in the soil to loosen it and create space. Like with dethatching, you should aerate the lawn during its active growth period and when the soil is moist. Always dethatch before aerating so the aeration machine can reach deep into the soil. 

Common grass types for Fort Worth-ArlingtonGrowing seasonWhen to aerate
Tall fescueCool-season grassSeptember – October
BermudagrassWarm-season grassMay – June
ZoysiagrassWarm-season grassMay – June

September through October is the best time to aerate cool-season lawns. You could aerate cool-season grass in spring instead if you absolutely needed to for some reason, but spring aeration exposes your lawn to weeds. Fall is the ideal time. 

Don’t aerate your lawn in fall if you have warm-season grass. Warm-season grasses are dormant at this time of year, and they may not be able to recover from the process of aeration. Fall aeration could damage your warm-season lawn beyond repair. Aerate these lawns in May or June instead.

5. Overseed cool-season grasses before the first frost

infographic showing the best time for overseeding on the US map,

Is your lawn looking a little patchy and thin after suffering through the extreme heat of a Texas summer? Help it get back to its lush look with overseeding. Overseeding is the process of planting new grass seed in an already established lawn to make it thicker. 

You should always overseed toward the beginning of your grass’s growing season so the new shoots have plenty of time to grow and establish roots before going dormant. 

Common grass types for Fort Worth-ArlingtonGrowing seasonWhen to overseed
Tall fescueCool-season grassLate September – Early October
BermudagrassWarm-season grassLate April – Early May
ZoysiagrassWarm-season grassLate April – Early May

For cool-season lawns, that means overseeding in early fall. If you plan to overseed in fall, you should always plant new grass at least 45 days before the first frost of winter. In the Fort Worth-Arlington area, the first frost usually hits in mid-November, so the best time to seed cool-season grasses here is late September or early October.  

As with so many of the tasks on this checklist, you should NOT seed warm-season lawns in fall because the new grass won’t grow during its dormant season. Overseed warm-season grass during its own growing season in spring. Temperatures are usually ideal around late April and early May.

6. Test the soil once every year

Before you fertilize the lawn, you should have your soil tested. A soil test will tell you exactly which nutrients your soil is missing. The results of your test may tell you to look for a fertilizer containing a certain ingredient or a lime fertilizer to adjust the soil’s pH.

For local soil testing services, contact Texas A&M’s Tarrant County AgriLife Extension office.

If you already had your soil tested in spring of this year, you don’t need to get another test in fall. You can use the results from the previous test to tell you what kind of fertilizer to use this time, too. It’s a good idea to test your soil once a year, or every three years at the latest, to make sure you’re staying on the right track to balanced soil. 

7. Fertilize the right amount

Regardless of your grass type, you should fertilize the lawn once or twice a year. You can fertilize once in spring, once in fall, or both. Do all fall fertilizing in September or October.

The amount of fertilizer you should use will vary as follows depending on your grass type:

Common grass types for Fort Worth-ArlingtonHow much fertilizer to use per 1,000 square feet*
Common Bermudagrass4 – 6 pounds
Hybrid Bermudagrass5 – 7 pounds
Zoysiagrass3 – 5 pounds
Tall fescue2 – 5 pounds

*Amount of fertilizer to use per year. If you’re doing two applications, split these numbers in half. 

8. Prevent weeds with pre-emergent herbicides

Cool-season weeds germinate in fall, then bloom and cover your lawn in winter and early spring. You can prevent those weeds if you apply pre-emergent herbicide in fall. 

When should you use pre-emergent herbicide? Pre-emergent herbicides work best if you apply them after the soil temperature drops below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The Fort Worth-Arlington area usually experiences these temperatures from September through November.

What is pre-emergent herbicide? Pre-emergent herbicide kills weed seeds while they’re still germinating. That means the weeds will never sprout in your lawn in the first place if you time the application right. 

Some common Texas weeds you can prevent by applying pre-emergent herbicide in the fall:

  • Arrowleaf clover
  • Chickweed
  • Henbit
  • Lawn burweed
  • Sowthistle
  • Annual ryegrass

Should you use post-emergent herbicide in fall? Post-emergent herbicide only kills weeds that have already sprouted in the lawn, and it doesn’t do anything to prevent future weeds. So, you only need to apply post-emergent herbicide in fall if summer weeds in your lawn persist after temperatures start to drop. 

9. Mow until the grass stops growing

How do you know when it’s time for the last mow of the season? Pay attention to the height of your grass. When it stops growing, mow the lawn one final time, then stop until next spring. 

Common grass types for Fort Worth-ArlingtonGrowing seasonTypical time frame for last mow
Tall fescueCool-season grassLate November – Early December
BermudagrassWarm-season grassMid to Late October
ZoysiagrassWarm-season grassMid to Late October 

Some experts recommend cutting the lawn shorter for the last mow. The exact height will depend on your grass type, but 2 – 2 ½ inches is generally how high you should cut your grass on the last mow. 

Note: Some experts say you shouldn’t cut the lawn shorter before winter because the risk of scalping the lawn is too great. They recommend using the same cutting height you’ve been using all season for the last mow. 

10. Winterize sprinklers

Inside a tool shed with garden tools and supplies hanging in an organized manner on the back wall, with a lawn mower on the floor
Robert Couse-Baker | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Winterizing sprinklers in Texas looks a little different from the winterizing homeowners have to do up north. You do not have to blow out your sprinkler system in Fort Worth because the winter temperatures don’t drop low enough to affect the underground piping. 

There are still some minor tasks you should complete before winter to protect your sprinklers from freeze-related damage:

  • Shut off the system
  • Disconnect sprinklers from the water supply (garden hose, etc.)
  • Cover faucets and other aboveground system components to shield from frost

11. Arm plant beds for winter

Your lawn isn’t the only thing in your landscape that needs some protection through winter’s vicious cold snaps. Flower beds, shrubs, and other landscape plants are more likely to survive winter and thrive in spring if you protect the soil from frost and prune the plants in fall. 

How to prepare your plant beds for winter:

  • Prune perennial plants (if the species of plant prefers fall pruning)
  • Remove weeds
  • Remove dead plants and other debris
  • Add manure, compost, and other soil supplements so they have time to decompose and enrich the soil before growth begins in spring
  • Spread a fresh layer of mulch about 2 to 3 inches thick to insulate the soil and plants’ roots through potential freezes

Fall lawn care sets you up for success

Even though you won’t see the fruits of your labor until after winter, stay diligent about lawn care in fall. How can you expect your grass to grow thick, tough, and disease-free in spring if you don’t give it the tools it needs to get through winter? 

You have to think ahead with lawn care. Follow these steps in fall, and you’ll start next year with a beautiful, healthy lawn.

As you can see, proper lawn care isn’t easy! It takes a lot of time and effort, which many Fort Worth-Arlington homeowners don’t have to spare. Instead of spending all your free time following this checklist (or simply letting your lawn die), you can leave lawn care in the hands of a local pro and stop worrying about it yourself. 

Main Photo Credit: PublicDomainPictures.net

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