Fall Lawn Care Checklist for Baltimore

Single leaf in grass

What makes Baltimore such a great place to live is that we get to experience all four seasons. Extreme weather is very rare. Autumn is so pleasant because the mild temperatures range from 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the beautiful changing leaves paint the area shades of red, yellow, and brown. 

Now is the perfect time to get out in the yard and prepare your cool-season grass for the winter ahead. The shoulder seasons — spring and fall — are when your cool-season Baltimore grasses are in growth mode, so it’s important to repair any damage from summer and get them ready for the winter ahead.

Here are some fall lawn care tasks that will help your cool-season grasses survive well this winter.

  1. Rake fallen leaves
  2. Fertilize for a healthy lawn
  3. Aerate to let your lawn breathe
  4. Overseed your cool-season grass
  5. Perform the last mow
  6. Winterize your sprinkler system

1. Rake fallen leaves

Leaf pile with a rake next to it
utroja0 | Pixabay

Why do you think they call it fall? All of those trees are shedding their leaves and getting ready for the colder temps. But don’t wait until you have 2 inches of leaves piled up on top of your grass. Make sure you are raking at least once or twice a week, depending on how many trees you have around your yard.

Having too many leaves piled on your lawn can negatively impact grass growth: 

  • They block direct sunlight from reaching the grass, causing dead, balding patches 
  • They prevent water and nutrients from reaching the grass’s roots
  • Leave block air from reaching the grass and allowing it to breathe
  • Compacted leaves invite pests and diseases

2. Fertilize for a healthy lawn

Fall is the best time to fertilize your cool-season grasses in Baltimore. Your lawn needs to be strong to withstand the upcoming cold winter.

There are plenty of advantages of fertilizing cool-season grasses in the fall:

  • Reduces weeds
  • Boosts nutrients
  • Prevents diseases
  • Prevents bare patches
  • Encourages root growth
  • Makes your grass look greener

What’s the best type of fertilizer to use?

To determine which fertilizer to buy, you should test your soil. There are many different fertilizers available to suit your lawn’s specific needs, but you won’t know what your lawn is lacking without a proper soil test.

When should you apply fertilizer? 

The best time for fertilizing in the fall is about a month before the ground starts to freeze. The ground starts to frost right around the end of October in Baltimore, so aim to fertilize in September.

3. Aerate to let your lawn breathe

Aeration is the process of creating holes in your soil to improve drainage and oxygen circulation, both of which promote growth and prevent pests. This process also removes thatch – all the dead organic matter on top of your grass – from your lawn. 

There are many advantages to aerating your lawn:

  • Reduces levels of thatch
  • Stimulates grass growth
  • Limits weed growth
  • Helps nutrients and water seep into the soil
  • Smooths out bumps in your grass
  • Helps establish newly planted grass

When should I aerate?

Similar to dethatching, your lawn should be aerated during your grass’s growing season. Fall is the best time to aerate your cool-season tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and fine-leaf fescues grass. You shouldn’t need to aerate your lawn every year unless it receives a lot of activity and foot traffic. Aim to aerate every other year or so. 

How do I aerate?

There are two ways to aerate your lawn.

  • Spiking: Use spikes to poke holes in the lawn
  • Coring: Remove plugs of soil from the lawn

Cool-season grasses have root systems that expand right before winter to get ready for the upcoming growing seasons. By aerating in fall, you can energize this process, ensuring your lawn survives the winter and grows healthy in springtime.

4. Overseed your cool-season grass

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

What is overseeding?

Overseeding is a process where you plant grass seed in your already established lawn to fill in dead patches and thicken your lawn. This makes your lawn nicer to look at while preventing pest issues and diseases. 

When do I overseed?

The best time to reseed your cool-season Baltimore lawn is between mid-August to mid-September. This gives the grass enough time to get established after the heat of summer and before winter causes it to become dormant. Once the weather starts to warm in spring, your grass will emerge brighter and thicker than ever before. Overseeding gives your lawn a fluffy, dense appearance. If you plan to overseed in fall, you should always plant new grass at least 45 days before the first frost of winter.

5. Perform the last mow

Winter may be your favorite time of year because of the holidays, but a close second is not having to mow the lawn for several months. Fall is a transitionary period, where your grass starts to slow its growth as the temperatures get colder. 

If you leave your grass too high, it can become matted and diseased; if you cut your grass too short, its precious root systems could freeze in winter’s chilly temperatures. For cool-season grasses such as tall fescue, keep your grass height at 2.5 inches.

Follow the one-third rule: Never cut off more than one-third of your grass’s length. Cutting off more than one-third of the blade’s length can stress the grass and make it susceptible to weeds, pests, and disease. For example, if your grass is 3 inches tall, don’t cut off more than 1 inch.

6. Winterize your sprinkler system

Garden hose wrapped around the top of a fence
Rudy and Peter Skitterians | Pixabay

No one wants to stress over broken pipes! Remember to winterize your irrigation system and drain it of all its water. Otherwise, the remaining water leads to frozen pipes, broken sprinkler heads, and cracked plastic. Drain the irrigation system this fall so you can count on a working system come spring.

Take care of fall lawn care tasks

Fall is the best time to take care of your Baltimore lawn. Since your cool-season grass is in growth mode, raking, mowing, fertilizing, aerating, and overseeding are important tasks to perform before the winter cold has your grass go dormant. By getting started now, you can take care of brown patches, avoid diseases like snow mold, keep pests at bay, and ensure healthy spring grass growth.

If there are some tasks on this checklist that sound too daunting, don’t worry. Consider contacting a certified local lawn care professional so that you can enjoy another lovely autumn in Baltimore.

Main Photo Credit: Pixabay

Josh Camacho

Josh Camacho has been working in landscaping in the American Southeast for over 10 years. His experience with outdoor event planning enables him to spot foot traffic considerations from miles away.