Fall is my favorite time of the year. There’s a cool crispness to the air, and in many parts of the country the leaves are just beginning to show off their fall colors. The brutal summer heat is finally starting to fade away, making it much nicer to be outside. Early fall is also a prime time of the year for getting many jobs completed in the landscape. Our cool-season lawn grass is in its prime growing season while our warm-season grasses are beginning to slow down. Unfortunately our wildflower gardens are nearing their ends as well, most blooms having come and gone. By taking full advantage of this late summer/early fall window of opportunity you’ll be far more prepared for the winter season.
Early Fall Lawn Care
Early fall is a very important time for cool-season lawn grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, fescue, and perennial ryegrass. What you do now will have a direct impact on your lawn come spring. First, if you haven’t got around to aerating your lawn consider doing so now. Over time compaction reduces the amount of open pore space in the soil. These pore spaces play an important role in moving water and air within the soil, as well as allowing roots to reach their full potential. Core aerating helps create open pore space as well as improving the drainage of a lawn. This is also the best time of the year for reseeding or overseeding cool-season grasses as well as planting a new lawn. For folks with automatic irrigation systems, you may need to adjust how much you’re watering and cut back where needed. As for fertilizing, the final autumn application is perhaps the most important and can make a huge impact on how early your grass “greens-up” come spring.
Overseeding Bermudagrass with Perennial Ryegrass
For southern homeowners with Bermudagrass lawns, now is the time to overseed with perennial ryegrass to avoid a brown, dormant lawn this winter. During the next few months Bermudagrass will begin to go dormant while the freshly sown perennial ryegrass will begin to germinate. By the arrival of winter, the perennial ryegrass will grown in and thrive in the cooler weather, hiding the dormant Bermudagrass and providing a lush green look. By the arrival of spring, the perennial ryegrass will have served its purpose and will die off as temperatures heat up and the Bermudagrass begins its transition back out of dormancy. Finally, as summer returns the Bermudagrass will reclaimed full control of the lawn.
What to do About Leaves
Keep up on removing leaves. Your lawn is in the process of storing energy for its dormancy by completing photosynthesis. Autumn leaves and other debris can block sunlight and limit the amount of photosynthesis occurring. But don’t let leaf litter go to waste. Leaves are full of nutrients and make a great natural fertilizer for your flower beds. Place them in a compost pile or shred them up with a compost shredder and add them to your soil as an amendment.
Wildflower Bed Maintenance
There is much to be done in the flower bed this time of year. Perennial wildflowers can be cut back with a weed eater or clippers, while spent annuals will need to be dug up and thrown into the compost pile. Nothing looks more depressing on a grey autumn day than a garden full of dead, rotten plants. If you have any wildflowers with dried seed pods, you may want to leave them uncut for the winter to provide food for birds and other wildlife. Black-eyed Susan is a great example of this. Ornamental grasses can be cut back or left to provide an interesting winter landscape. This is also a great time to divide and transplant any overgrown perennials or ornamental grasses.
So go on, get outside and enjoy this beautiful time of year. There’s much to be done before the return of the winter season.