SALEM, Ore.--()--Fall is here, and it’s time to start thinking about winterizing your lawn. In most of the country, thanks to cooler temperatures and increased precipitation, fall is the ideal season for seeding a new lawn or enhancing an existing one. Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers, suggests several steps you can take now to make sure you have a lush green lawn next year.
“The more you do in the fall, the bigger the payoff in the spring and in years to come”
“The more you do in the fall, the bigger the payoff in the spring and in years to come,” said Bryan Ostlund, Grass Seed USA executive director. “There are three main reasons to consider improving your lawn now. First, adding seed in the fall allows you to repair damage or thicken areas that have become sparse, so your lawn will be full and vibrant in the spring. Second, if you’re thinking about selling your home in the next year, planting a lawn or improving an existing one can boost curb appeal and increase your home’s value. Third, if you have warm-season grass that goes dormant when the temperatures drop, you can avoid winter browning by overseeding with cool-season grass, which will keep your lawn green year-round.”
The United States can be roughly divided into three grass-growing zones: Cool Zone, Transition Zone and Warm Zone (see graphic).
If you live in the Warm Zone, fall is a time to sit back and enjoy your lawn, as few winterization measures are needed and new warm-season lawns are best planted in the late spring or early summer. One option you may want to consider is overseeding – adding cool-season grass seed over your warm-season turf. The cool-season grass will thrive until the warm-season grass turns green again in the spring, giving you a lush lawn year-round.
Homeowners in the Cool Zone and Transition Zone should take similar steps to prepare their lawns for winter. In these areas, fall is a good time for the following activities:
- Seeding a new lawn. Before you plant a new lawn, talk to your local garden shop or university extension agent to identify the type of grass that will best meet your needs, taking into consideration the location, level of use, sun exposure, drainage, and so on. For easy-to-follow tips on seeding a lawn, from ground preparation to caring for new grass, see www.weseedamerica.com/planting.
- Adding seed to thicken an existing lawn. If your lawn is looking thin, or if you need to fill in some bare patches, now is the time to reseed. Talk to a turf specialist at a garden shop or university extension agent to find out what type of seed is best for your lawn conditions. Spread the seed over your existing lawn and then water lightly and regularly, making sure the reseeded areas stay moist until the new grass grows in. (Transition Zone homeowners with warm-season grasses also have the option of overseeding their lawns to keep them green through the winter.)
- Dethatching. A certain amount of thatch – the tightly packed layer of organic matter between the grass blades and the soil surface – can benefit your lawn, but if the layer exceeds ½ inch, it can keep moisture and oxygen from reaching the soil and can harbor fungus and insect pests. If your lawn needs to be dethatched, you can rent a vertical mower or hire a professional to do the job for you. If you plan to add seed to your lawn as well, make sure you dethatch before adding seed. This will enhance the germination process by ensuring the seed is in contact with the soil.
- Aerating. Older or heavily trafficked lawns can suffer from soil compaction. A core aerator with hollow tines will pull small plugs of soil out of the ground, allowing increased movement of water, nutrients and oxygen into the soil. You can rent an aerator or hire a professional to aerate your lawn for you.
- Raising your mower blades. Let your grass grow a bit taller in the fall, usually between 1½ and 2½ inches. If you cut it too short, you’ll severely limit its ability to make and store food for growth in the spring. If the grass is too long it can become matted, which leads to problems as well.
- Winterizing your irrigation system. If you live in an area where the frost level extends below the depth of your irrigation pipes, be sure to shut off the water to the irrigation system and drain all the pipes before the first freeze.
About Grass Seed USA
Grass Seed USA is a national coalition of grass seed farmers and academic turf specialists with a wealth of experience in studying, growing and harvesting grass and grass seed. The coalition seeks to inform and educate residential and commercial customers about the benefits of grass and best practices for responsibly growing and maintaining healthy turf. For more information, visit www.weseedamerica.com.