I love this time of year. The harsh sunlight of high summer has mellowed into a gentler light that highlights the different colors of grasses and leaves. The mornings have a certain coolness that says the season is changing. Plants that faded in the summer heat put on new growth and flowers.
With the change in the weather, fall is a great time to give your lawn some TLC. The heat is gone, the soil is still warm, and it’s easier to work outside. Any lawn would benefit from a good core aeration now.
Core aeration machines have hollow tubes that pull small cores of soil out, opening holes that will let water, air and nutrients easily move to the grass roots. You can then rake in a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost across the yard. The compost will fill the holes with fresh nutrients. You can have the aeration done by a pro or rent a machine from local tool rental shops. Leave the soil cores on the lawn; they will break down over the winter.
Fall is one of the best times to fertilize your lawn with a slow release fertilizer. The grass plants will take up the nutrients and rejuvenate themselves before translocating the nutrients to their roots for the winter. In the spring, those nutrients will be available to the plants as soon as they start growing which may be long before you are ready to get out in the garden.
If you have bare spots or thin grass, now is the best time of the year to do some reseeding. The soil is warm so seed will sprout quickly and put on some good growth before it turns cold. Lightly rake the thin spots to loosen the soil and rake in some lawn starter fertilizer. Choose your seed carefully. Kentucky bluegrass needs full sun to do well while turf-type fescues do well in shaded areas. The seed package should have the percentages of different seed types in the mix. Lightly rake in the seed and spread a pelleted mulch over the seed to keep it moist. Lightly water the area once a day to keep the seed bed moist until the grass is a couple of inches tall.
If the lawn is totally gone, replanting now will mean a brand-new lawn ready to go in the spring. If the area is large, lightly till up the area and level it. Distribute fertilizer and seed across the lawn, cover with pelleted mulch and keep watered as above.
Fall is a good time to treat for cranefly. The adults are laying eggs in the sod now and the white grubs will begin feeding on the sod in the spring. Areas of the lawn will turn brown as the larvae feed on the grass roots. To check for cranefly larvae, pull up some of the sod and check for large cream white larvae just under the soil. Treat the area with lawn insect products following the directions.