Sacramento’s fall season can be the perfect time to finish up your lawn care before the December frost arrives. As the weather turns cold, typical warm season grasses might struggle to retain their green colors without proper care and maintenance. That’s why you’ll want some fall lawn care tips.
But by following these steps, your lawn can keep its deep green color and maintain healthy root systems that will survive the winter. Just be sure to finish all your lawn care practices before mid-December, as frost tends to cause difficulty for growing seedlings and weakens lawn grasses.
If your lawn consists of mostly warm-season grasses, then mowing should not be an issue for you in the fall. Warm-season grasses tend to grow in excess during hot summer months, while slowing their growth rates down during cooler seasons such as the spring and fall. If this is the case for your lawn, try to mow as infrequently as possible—at most once every 7 to 14 days.
However, if your lawn consists of many cool-season grasses, the fall is a very important time to mow your yard. Cool season grasses such as Kentucky Bluegrass tend to grow the most during the spring and fall as the weather turns cooler.
If you notice your lawn is growing faster in the fall, try mowing your lawn once every 4 to 7 days. But make sure not to cut your grass down more than a third of its height at a time. This ensures that your lawn won’t need drastic adjustments in fertilization and watering.
These steps will keep your lawn looking as healthy as possible. Check out our grass type guide to Sacramento to find correct heights to mow to for your grasses.
Thatch is a very common layer of leaves, stems, and other organic matter between blades of grass and the soil surface. A thin layer of thatch measuring less than half an inch can be incredibly beneficial to a lawn, providing nutrients, reducing water evaporation, preventing weed growth, and providing protection from possible frost damage.
However, thick layers of thatch can actually prevent your grasses from getting enough water, sunlight and nutrients to survive. Thatch can also welcome fungal infections and certain pests into your lawn.
Some grass species such as tall fescues will not produce much thatch at all. However, species like Kentucky Bluegrass, or bermuda grasses can produce excess amounts very quickly.
At times when thatch reaches an unhealthy thickness, the early fall season is the best time to deal with this. In order to check your thatch layer, remove a small square of your lawn to a depth of about 3 inches down, and measure the light brown layer between your grass blades and the soil itself.
If your lawn has over half an inch of thatch, it is time to remove some of the excess material. Two methods exist to dethatch a lawn: first using a dethatching rake—second using a vertical lawn mower. Before dethatching, mow the lawn slightly lower than you normally would and lightly water the soil to moisten it.
Whether using a dethatching rake or a vertical mower, both tools will dig up thatch in the ground, bringing it to the surface. Once you have raked or mowed your lawn entirely, simply remove any excess thatch brought to the surface. Follow this method by aerating, fertilizing and watering as per usual.
As the fall is the last season before cooler winter months move in, the last fertilizer application can be one of the most important ones of the year. If your lawn consists mostly of warm-season grasses, use a simple nitrogen only fertilizer and apply normally in order to ensure that your lawn maintains its green color throughout the winter.
If your lawn consists mostly of cool-season grasses such as Kentucky Bluegrass, September and October are the perfect months to apply complete fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Just remember to deeply water your lawn a day before fertilizer application, and try using slow-release fertilizers to prevent extra nutrients from being lost in surface runoff.
The most common grasses associated with the Sacramento valley are all warm-season grasses. Unfortunately, this means that many lawns in the area turn brown or even wilt during the colder months of the year.
Warm-season grasses work great for California’s heat waves throughout the summer, but many of these grass species have little to no tolerance for colder weather. This problem can be remedied through a process called overseeding.
Overseeding involves planting thinner layers of cool-season grass seeds in order to provide more cold weather protection for your lawn during the winter. By using grass seed mixtures such as perennial ryegrass, tall fescues, or rough bluegrass, one can entirely avoid the common browning that affects the region so powerfully.
To overseed, begin by mowing your lawn down to the lowest recommended height for any present grasses and rake up any grass clipping debris or leaves. Once this has been done, dethatch your lawn as described earlier in this section, and aerate using a small trowel or a core aerator.
Broadcast your new seed mixture and fertilize with a complete fertilizer (containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) following instructions for application. Once fertilized, simply water your lawn with light, frequent applications, in order to keep the soil moist but not soaked.
Need help preparing your lawn for summer? Visit our Sacramento lawn care page to get in touch with a professional! In addition to Sacramento, we provide lawn care services in other cities including Los Angeles and Riverside.
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