Q. What lawn chores are best done in the fall?
A. Fall is the preferred season to tackle turf tasks. Grass will begin to grow quickly again in response to cooler nights, moderate days and increased rainfall. This is an indicator to fertilize if you have not yet done so. Broadcast an organic or slow-release 3-1-2 blend in September and again in early November. Late-season applications help grass retain good color throughout winter, promote healthy grass roots and give grass a jumpstart to turn green early next spring.
September weather is suitable for overseeding an existing lawn, renovating bare spots or laying down sod. Be sure to remove all weeds from the area first. Till down several inches; scatter an appropriate seed for the seed; cover with a light coating of peat moss or straw; and water daily until germination, usually 10 to 14 days.
Core aeration, a process where plugs of soil and grass are removed at regular intervals, can be done either by renting equipment or hiring a professional. A cool, dry fall day is the perfect time for this beneficial chore. Core aeration reduces compaction in heavy clay soils, permits a more rapid exchange of oxygen and water with grass roots and reduces the thatch layer on lawns. The soil and grass plugs can remain on the lawn since they will gradually decompose and return all their nutrients to the soil.
Gardeners have a last chance to weed out both annual weeds that have not yet gone to seed and any perennial weeds that were missed during the past growing season. Hand-weeding is always preferred, if possible.