Fall Lawn Care Tips
“I think of grass. Every two weeks a chap comes out and mows it down. What if grass were to say, ‘What’s the use?’ ”
In these stressful times, the green-home builders at Tommy Williams Homes in Gainesville often look to nature for lessons. The perseverance of a tiny blade of grass is one lesson we can take to heart.
But even though our lawns endure kids and pets and games, we need to return the favor and provide regular care to keep them healthy and thriving. Fall is the prime time to repair your lawn and give it a good foundation for next year. We want to provide you with reliable and sustainable fall lawn care tips.
The important thing to realize is it’s possible to have an attractive, lush lawn without drenching it in chemicals. These are not only detrimental to the environment but to the creatures—including humans—that will come into contact with it.
This doesn’t mean you can’t use any treatments at all, if warranted. But it does mean a healthy foundation supported by sustainable practices will help to minimize their necessity.
For example, if you have a lot of weeds in your lawn, that’s a symptom that the lawn itself is unhealthy. A robust lawn will crowd out most undesirable weeds.
If your lawn contains more weeds than grass, you need to change your lawn-care practices.
Sustainable lawn care
One way to guarantee a sickly, weed-filled lawn is to mow the grass too short. The blade should be at least three inches high, especially during mid-summer heat. This protects the roots from heat stress and drought and allows it to crowd out weeds without the need for an herbicide.
And use a mulching mower instead of a bag mower. Leaving the grass clippings on the lawn returns their nitrogen to the soil, reducing the need to fertilize as often.
If you must fertilize, use an organic mix instead of a synthetic product. And consider that a certain amount of weeds is actually desirable. Clover, for instance, not only provides nectar for bees but also returns nitrogen to the soil.
And when watering, less-frequent (once or twice a week) but deep watering helps roots grow deeper. Use a gauge and aim for one and a half to two inches with each watering. The one exception is just after newly seeding the lawn, when you should water more lightly twice a day to help the roots sprout and become established.
If your lawn is so far gone that you need to start over, the green approach entails laying down a sheet of black plastic held in place with bricks or rocks. Within six weeks you’ll have a clean slate without the use of nonselective herbicides.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida (UF/IFAS) here in Gainesville offers the following tips to prepare your North Florida lawn for winter.
Even though we’re not subject to the extreme cold and snow experienced by northern lawns, the shorter days, lower light intensity and cooler temperatures of winter will cause lawns to grow more slowly.
September is the latest you should be applying a high-potassium fertilizer to the lawn. If you fertilize too late, it could cause the grass to grow when cold weather arrives, making it more cold-sensitive. If you missed your fall application, don’t worry. Simply apply it in the spring when new growth appears, and your lawn will respond with renewed growth and vigor.
Green all winter
While sustainable practices urge you to be comfortable with a less-green lawn during the winter months, IFAS suggests that if you want your lawn to look green year-round, try overseeding. This means introducing a temporary grass over the existing lawn.
Ryegrass is popular here for overseeding because it grows quickly and is cost effective.
- rake the grass to remove all debris
- mow your lawn before sowing the seed
- water the lawn frequently until the seed has germinated
- water, mow, and fertilize regularly over the winter
Grasses used for overseeding will die off as temperatures rise in the spring to be replaced by the original grass.
If you want your lawn to appear green all winter without the hard work, IFAS suggests you consider using turf colorants that have traditionally been used on golf courses and athletic fields.
Don’t run to the hardware store for paint, though. Turf colorants are specially formulated to be safe for the grass as well as the environment, so seek them out from a company that specializes in them.
If you’re into sustainable living, you’ll want see our full line of net-zero homes, featuring intelligent design, responsible constructions, and cutting-edge energy efficiency. To learn more, contact us.