Lawn care in the fall

Lawn care in the fall
Source: Pixabay

I’m hoping that I only have to mow my yard just one more time this year. Cooler weather and shorter days are bringing an end to lawn growth.

But even as you do your last lawn mowing, below are practices that will ensure a good transition of your lawn into winter months and a stronger lawn come next spring.

Don’t fertilize anymore. One common action we love to take is applying a “winter-izer fertilizer.” It is a very beneficial practice but don’t do it now because it is too late. Generally, research recommends the absolute latest fall fertilizer application should be made at least six weeks before the location’s historic first frost date.

Given that our historic first frost is mid-November, that last application of fertilizer would have been done by the first of October. Fertilizing this late in the fall would be like someone preparing you supper just before bedtime! Your lawn is preparing for winter dormancy and a late feeding could be more disruptive than helpful.

One exception to this is if you have a Bermuda lawn. You can give Bermuda 2 to 3 pounds of 0-0-60 per 1,000 sq. ft. Potash fertilizer applied in the fall is a secret of top-notch hay growers. Bermudagrass roots are built up with potash (another name for potassium) and it won’t stimulate vegetative growth or fungal problems.

Do add lime if you need it. If you need to add lime to reduce acidic soils, add lime now to your lawns. Lime helps to neutralize the pH in our commonly low pH soils. Lime isn’t really a fertilizer although it does contain Calcium, a secondary nutrient for plants. Lime’s purpose is to provide a better environment for the plants to grow. One of its better attributes is that it allows nutrients to be more available.

So, who does need to lime? I don’t have a clue. But with $13 spent on a soil test, anyone and everyone can find out exactly how much lime they’ll need to apply. Look up “SFA soil lab” on a search engine and print off a PDF form. If you just want to pick one up, our office (located next the Angelina County Farmers Market) and some feed stores have soil testing forms.

Don’t keep watering. I’ve had a number of folks ask if they should water during the winter months. It’s true that your lawn and shrubs and other perennials need moisture year-round, but our climate typically provides enough moisture in our winter not to water. In the coming weeks (and certainly after our first frost) you can completely turn off your sprinkler system.

When should you turn the irrigation system back on? April is a good time. The grass will likely have started growing at that time and warm, drier weather would be starting.

Do treat for weeds. You can (and should) treat for weeds each fall. Problematic warm-season perennial weeds such as Spurge and Virginia Buttonweed can be killed now before they go dormant. Annual spring weeds such as Lawn Burweed and Henbit can be best controlled with preemergent herbicides as they are just trying to germinate.

Products may not be clearly marked as “preemergent” but may instead have language on them such as “weed preventer.” So, being familiar with some of the active ingredients can be helpful.

Common active ingredients used for preemergence control include prodiamine, dithiopyr, pendimethalin, isoxaben and others.

I have long recommended Atrazine. There are lots of products on the shelves at lots of stores that contain this active ingredient. It is very safe to use on our most common turfgrass, St. Augustine.

Do these last practices and your lawn will be one of the best in the neighborhood next spring.

Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is