Our yards are often our pride and joy, a reflection of our attention to detail and care, and maybe even the talk of the town. We all strive for gleaming grass with perfect stripes that rival golf course mowing, but by now many of us are sighing with relief as the lawnmower is stowed away for winter. What most don’t realize, however, is you’re not off the hook just yet. Cool temperatures mark an opportune time to prepare your lawn for next spring, especially as the yard becomes peppered with leaves, acorns, and twigs.
A recent survey from Liberty Mutual Insurance shows that three in 10 American homeowners are not taking care of home maintenance projects on a routine basis, which includes lawn care. If you are one of those procrastinators, I recommend you get a head start now so you have something to show off come spring. Here are a few essential steps I suggest taking to increase yard safety this fall and winter, and to ensure you’ll have a clean and green lawn next spring.
Mow With a Shorted Blade
A common misconception among lawn mowing is that this chore only needs to be taken care of in the spring and summer months. While these months are the best to be mowing your lawn with a long mower blade, for most of the country, mowing needs to continue into November. The good news with fall mowing is that it does not need to be done as frequently and certainly does not require as long of a blade. I recommend lowering your mower blade from about three inches to approximately two and a half inches. With your final mowing in early November, I’d even recommend lowering the blade to two inches. It is not as important to keep your grass as long as you do in the summer in the winter, as the grass is dormant.
Plant the Seed for Success
Planting new grass seed is a great autumn lawn care activity if you want to show off a full-looking, green lawn to your neighbors in the spring. Because natural precipitation usually increases in the fall, it helps soil moisture stay more even-keeled than in the spring and summer months. Run a lawn examination and identify any spots that could be filled in or areas that could use thickening. You will want to lay the seeding groundwork on these areas around a month prior to the first expected frost of the season.
Establish a Regular Raking Routine
While fall foliage is something to admire, it’s better to admire on the trees and not on the lawn. The biggest mistake made with leaf pick-up is waiting until all of the leaves have fallen to begin raking your yard. I suggest maintaining a regular raking routine rather than saving raking to a weekend later in the season. Your routine will ultimately depend on the number of trees in your yard and the abundance of leaves. I like to follow the trash bag rule—if there are enough leaves on your lawn to fill one trash bag, then you need to rake. If you have more than one trash bag’s worth, then setting aside one hour on the weekend to tend to the leaves is the most efficient way to ensure they do not linger on your lawn for too long. Not only will your lawn look cleaner, but regular raking will allow you to worry less about having dead patches on your lawn in the spring.
Use a Weed Whacker
The most common weeds such as crabgrass, plantain, and chickweed go to seed in autumn so it’s crucial to pull them out this time of year. The natural precipitation in autumn not only allows your new grass seed to thrive, but weeds also soak up any water they can grasp. I personally find it easiest to tackle the duty of weed whacking at the same time I decide to find time for raking. During this time you are the most likely to be paying attention to the imperfections found on your lawn if you’re unable to rake them up. Additionally, I like to apply herbicide to the areas with weeds in autumn so they are less likely to return in the spring.
Fertilize on a Schedule
One solution to keeping your lawn looking its best and free of weeds is to find a fertilizer that best fits the climate you live in, and apply it on a specific schedule year-round. I recommend fertilizing your lawn every three months, starting in spring with a fertilizer combination that will keep the turf green and root base strong. Fertilizing, along with establishing a good watering routine and keeping a sharp mower blade, is the recipe for a beautiful lawn you can feel confident about. Fertilization is also a simple DIY project to keep up the curb appeal of your home.
To see DIY dos and don’ts when it comes to keeping the outside of your home maintained, this video I created with Liberty Mutual Insurance is an innovative and helpful resource.
As the host, designer, and contractor on the series "Elbow Room," Chip Wade is there from concept through construction to show HGTV and DIY viewers how to customize their spaces and transform houses into homes that perfectly suit their lifestyle. Additionally, Chip has acted as a representative for many national brands and is currently a consultant with Liberty Mutual Insurance.