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Mid-Atlantic Gardening: Fall Lawn Care

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Tackle fall lawn care chores now for a healthy lawn next spring. Treat perennial lawn weeds, aerate, fertilize, and sow grass seed.

Lawn, beds and shed

By Julie Martens Forney

My backyard lawn (above) is nothing to crow about, except that maybe it’s the perfect place for teaching a class on perennial lawn weeds. This fall I’m prepping my lawn for a spring makeover. Use my Mid-Atlantic autumn lawn care checklist to jump-start your own turf transformation.

creeping Charlie

Treat Lawn Weeds
Fall is the ideal time to kill perennial lawn weeds. My yard hosts many, including creeping Charlie, dandelion, burdock, and curly dock. The tall weed in this photo is the annual hairy bittercress, which responds to fall weed-killer applications.

In autumn perennial lawn weeds transport food stores from leaves to roots. Apply a liquid broadleaf herbicide from September to early October. The plant carries it to the roots—and you get root kill on tough weeds.

core aerator

Aerate Cool-Season Turf
Aeration creates openings in a lawn to allow air, nutrients, and water to reach grass roots. Autumn is the time to aerate cool-season turf, including tall fescue, fine fescue, and Kentucky bluegrass. Hire a lawn service to aerate, or rent a DIY lawn aerator.

Choose an aerator that extracts plugs of soil 2 to 3 in long and deposits them on the lawn. Allow plugs to decompose naturally. Aerate when soil is moist—not overly wet or overly dry.

Hand spreader with grass seed

Sow Grass Seed
After aerating it’s a good idea to overseed. Grass seed easily can reach soil when you’ve created holes in the lawn. Be sure to choose the right type of grass seed for your growing conditions.

Grab a hand spreader to overseed smaller areas, and a lawn spreader for larger ones.

lawn spreader

Apply Lawn Fertilizer
Autumn also is the time to fertilize cool-season turf. Use a lawn spreader for even application.

For Maryland residents the Fertilizer Use Act of 2011 stipulates volume and timing for lawn fertilizers. Fertilize in September and/or October and you’re well within the law. Get a soil test to know if you need to apply lime.

What’s on your fall lawn care to-do list?

See more Mid-Atlantic Gardening Articles.