Houston slips into fall virtually ignored - before we know it the hot, humid days of the summer are gone. We rummage about for those puffy down jackets, even though we don't usually need them in the fall.
Our warm-season grasses may be green in late fall but will remain dormant once temperatures are below 60 degrees. The last sighting of the snow in Houston was in 2010, and it was just a trace, but we've got it. George Bush Intercontinental Airport reports an annual total of 9.6 days of cold temperatures with times lingering in the low 30s to mid-40s for a few weeks at a time. If we don't want to be shocked by a brown lawn in the spring, we need to help the lawn have a nice winter.
Because snow is uncommon, we need to water the lawn all winter - one to two inches of water a week. Pour slowly enough that the moisture is soaked in the soil so you should not lose water from runoff. Often, watering in the morning helps the lawn to dry until evening, reducing the risk of spreading diseases.
Leaves covering the lawn prevent the much-needed sunshine from properly reaching and being absorbed by your grass. Pick the leaves up and drop them in your compost bin. You should cut them with a mulching mower, too, so that they automatically fertilize the lawn. This way, you save money on plastic bags, but most importantly, you help save the world by getting the manufacture and transport of plastic bags out of the picture and not contributing to the issues created by landfills.
The fall, when the air is cool but the soil is still moist, is the perfect time to overseed: to plant additional grass seeds over areas of the lawn where the grass is sparse or where there are barren spots. Overseeding thickens the turf so that it can survive the onslaught of pathogens and weeds that strike during the fall and the winter. Overseed without aerating, and you'll be shoring up the base of your lawn before winter comes.
Aerating is one of the easiest ways to revitalize the grass after it has been trampled all season. A high level of traffic compacts the soil, which, in essence, establishes a buffer between grassroots and the water, oxygen, and nutrients it requires to get through the winter. You can aerate with a pitchfork, a garden fork with tines, or a gas-powered aerator to loosen up the dirt, allow it to breathe, and allow grassroots access to the nutrients, water, and so on that they need.
The cleaner your lawn, the fewer problems you have with the fungus. Brown patches also emerge in the autumn. You can notice the areas of weakened grass that can be inches wide to several feet. Grass blades turn yellow at the ends of the patches and brown within the patches. Treat the patches with a baking soda spray for an eco-friendly alternative. To keep brown patches from forming, stop overwatering, ensure that the drainage is sufficient, and save grass that may be beginning to form these patches with the use of nitrogen.
Your lawn's treatment requires a full-circle approach. If you take care of your lawn every season, it will green in the spring, safe and lush, without having to split your back or your budget.