With a beautiful weekend at hand, how can you make the best use of the time you have available spend on your yard? By mowing, fertilizing, and watering your lawn.
Mow, but mow high.
It used to be common practice to mow a lawn shorter at the end of the season. Don’t do this. The thought was that it helped reduce turf diseases over the winter.
Updated knowledge says not to mow short. It’s a good idea to mow one more time to make sure the grass is not too long going into winter, but if anything, leave the grass a little longer than you normally would.
Why? The biggest killer of turfgrass over the winter is dehydration of the crown, not lawn diseases. The crown is the part of the grass plant at the soil surface where the leaves meet the roots.
By leaving the grass longer, the leaves can protect the crowns, the roots will be deeper, and your grass is more likely to survive the winter. Lawn diseases are actually pretty rare along Colorado’s Front Range. The bottom line is to mow your grass to three to four inches tall, no shorter, no matter what your neighbors do.
Fertilize for the last time this year.
What??? Fertilize in October? Yep. This is the important one that most people skip. Check out the post I wrote in September that lists all the benefits of fall fertilization.
Put down enough fertilizer to provide about 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. If you’re not sure how much fertilizer that is, check the recommendations on the back of the bag and choose the lower recommended setting on your fertilizer spreader. It’s better to underdo it rather than overdo it.
Don’t choose an organic or manure-based fertilizer at this time of year. Soil microbes have to process the nutrients in manure before they become available to the grass roots, and these guys are already shutting down their activity for the year. Instead, choose a “winterizer” blend or other general purpose lawn fertilizer that doesn’t contain weed or insect control.
It’s important to water your lawn after your fertilize to get the fertilizer to dissolve so the grass can make use of the nutrients. However, it’s also good to moisten your lawn’s roots well. Warm days in October increase the lawn’s water use, which can cause the soil to dry out even before winter sets in. Make sure your lawn goes into cold weather with good moisture in the soil.
If you’ve already shut down your sprinkler system for the year, go ahead use a sprinkler on the end of a hose. To know how long to run the sprinkler, put out a few empty cups in the area you’re going to water. Run your sprinkler in one area long enough to collect about a half to three-fourths of an inch of water (on average) in the cups. That’s enough water to moisten the root zone deeply without overdoing it.
Be sure to disconnect your hose from the spigot on the side of your house after you’ve covered all the lawn areas. If you leave the hose connected, the water might freeze in the spigot and cause leaky pipes.
So take advantage of this great weather this weekend and mow, fertilize, and water. Your lawn will thank you!