No matter how strong your lawn care skills are, your residential lawn will suffer the effects of daily use and fail to look its best after a potentially hot and dry summer. While regular lawn and landscape maintenance, such as periodic mowing and watering, are essential, they are not enough to keep your lawn healthy and looking its best year-round.
There’s a good chance your lawn will rebound in the spring, thanks to recharging during its winter dormancy. Yet, it will fare even better if you take effective measures to help it make the most of that rejuvenation period. Now is the time to start planning for this because autumn is the perfect time to do it.
Let’s take a look at the rejuvenation practices you should and consider for keeping your yard a showplace to enjoy with friends and family.
The Best Season for Residential Lawns
Autumn’s cooler temperatures reduce the stress on your lawn. You’ll notice it grows more easily. This also makes it more acceptable to supplement measures that give it a boost. Many of our Minnesota lawns are predominantly bluegrass, and this type of grass enjoys pampering, including more frequent watering and mowing.
In early autumn your lawn still needs regular fertilization to support all of its biological needs. Coming out of summer it will still need sufficient nitrogen to support the additional growth that it will be experiencing. You want to encourage this growth because it supports a stronger root system that is necessary for storing resources to sustain it throughout our typically long winters.
Fertilizing your lawn during autumn has two main advantages: it rejuvenates the lawn from the wear and tear it endured over the summer months, and it stores the carbohydrates that it needs for the months ahead.
At this time it is also beneficial to decrease the number of times you water your lawn, especially if you have an irrigation system. During periods of greater rainfall in the fall, plants benefit greatly from the natural nitrogen that is abundant in rainfall, especially thunderstorms.
It’s also helpful to alternate mowing patterns in autumn. This encourages the turfgrass to develop sturdier shoots that will be less likely to get matted down from heavy winter snowfalls. As you get closer to winter, and especially for that final mowing, you may wish to double mow your lawn. This sweeps up decaying autumn leaves that can trap moisture and prevent light from reaching all the way down to the roots.
The Most Productive Lawn Rejuvenation Practices
Autumn is also an excellent time for mechanical practices that may be performed at other times of the year. These are not recommended during peak growth periods because your lawn will already be somewhat stressed during aggressive growth periods.
Core aeration, irrigation system redesign, and reseeding or resodding a lawn are best practiced in early spring or fall. The reason fall is the better time, especially here in Minnesota, is that soils can be excessively moist during springtime until the ground has completely thawed. It turns out, waiting for that to happen may result in unusually warm weather that closes the window of opportunity.
#1. Core Aerate or Dethatch to Rejuvenate Turfgrass Roots
Most homeowners are familiar with core aeration. It’s a practice best performed in early autumn here in Minnesota. In fact, most golf courses perform core aeration during the second week of September without exception. This gives the root system the opportunity to benefit from the mechanical process of breaking up the root systems and returning that organic matter back to the soil.
Every plant needs moisture, oxygen, and micronutrients such as nitrogen, magnesium, and other trace elements to complete the photosynthesis process. If the root systems are dense, which is common with residential lawns, it’s necessary to break up the roots to allow them to rejuvenate.
Breaking up tender roots near the surface encourages more vigorous shoots that have a greater capacity for supporting the turf. A core aeration machine punches 3″ or so holes in the soil and drops the root pellets on the surface. This practice breaks up compacted soil and the pellets work their way back into the holes where they decompose and further nourish the turfgrass.
Some homeowners and experts prefer dethatching prior to or in place of core aeration. However, dethatching only removes dense, matted roots at the surface. The practice will rejuvenate the lawn, but its mostly treats the symptom, not the problem. Most experts suggest combining dethatching with core aeration.
#2. Freshen or Restart Your Lawn by Overseeding, Reseeding and Resodding
Overseeding is perfect if you want to fill up thinner or bare areas on your property. It’s also a way to introduce new seed varieties that will make your lawn more resistant to diseases and drought. The gentle temperature conditions and ample moisture in autumn allow the seeds to germinate faster and more reliably.
One of the little known lawn care secrets is overseeding immediately after core aeration. New grass seeds that are distributed across the lawn manually or with a mechanical spreader will fall into the loosened soil where they will be covered with aeration cores working their way back into the lawn.
A more aggressive option to overseeding is partially or completely reseeding your lawn. This will require stripping the lawn with a sod cutter to remove the tired turf. Then the lawn is graded with rakes and the addition of fresh topsoil to provide a fresh bed for the seeding. To prevent the seeds from washing away on sharply sloped surfaces until they germinate, it may be necessary to apply a seed blanket.
Of course, the fastest way to a new lawn is installing fresh sod. Many lawns are depleted of organic matter due to the ongoing use of chemical fertilizer and weed control applications. Foot traffic from everyday activities is also a contributor. The key advantage to resodding is that you are gaining fresh, organic soil and a vibrant stand of grass that promises to be a beautiful lawn after just a few mowings.
#3. Redesign Your Irrigation System
A useful upgrade that can be readily employed at this time a redesign of your irrigation system. You’ll want to start by monitoring your irrigation system’s performance for missed or overwatered areas, and the inevitable maintenance for broken or clogged irrigation heads or nozzles.
As your landscaping plants grow, the time comes when you need to reconfigure your system to ensure complete turf coverage without overwatering adjacent ornamental plantings. Redesigning a sprinkler system should typically be done by an irrigation professional, someone who knows how to balance the water pressure among the zones and for making repairs that may arise.
In most cases, you will enlarge planting beds to give mature plants room to grow. This will require relocating irrigation heads in those beds to the newly established turf edges. Depending on the size and shape of your lawn, you may be adding or reducing the number of lawn irrigation heads to ensure complete coverage.
Besides the irrigation system, this is a good time to look at the effectiveness of your drainage. You’ll want to make any drainage improvements needed while the soil is workable and lawn repairs simple. It’s always messy work, but this is a great time to get it handled so that your property looks tidy throughout winter.
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