With the heat and dryness of summer coming to an end, September is the best month to lay the groundwork for next year’s lawn. By doing things like aerating, overseeding, and fertilizing, your yard will be set for success come spring.
One of the first things to do is aerate your lawn. This reduces compaction and makes it easier for air and water and fertilizer to reach the roots. Compaction can occur if your yard gets heavy use. It is also recommended to aerate if you have a thick layer of thatch (greater than a half inch). This may not have to be done every year but keep these factors in mind when deciding how often to aerate your lawn.
Next, where grass is sparse, spread some aged compost to prepare for seeding, no more than a half inch thick. Make sure that it is dry and cool to the touch. If it is hot and smells, it is more likely to harbor pathogens and burn your lawn. If needed, you can work it in with a leaf rake.
Fertilizing is great in the fall. A high-phosphorus fertilizer is great to stimulate root growth and is good for starting grass seed. Most of the time, the lawn will go dormant for winter before most of the fertilizer nutrients are used up, meaning there will still be some to help rejuvenate the lawn in the spring.
The last thing you need to do is overseed. Use a rotary spreader and distribute the seed over the compost. Mix the seeds into the compost by raking with the tines up. For large areas, you can rent a power overseeder, which slices the turf and drops in the seeds and eliminates the need for any raking. Water lightly 2 or 3 times a day for 5 minutes, until the seeds sprout. Then water once a day for 15 to 30 minutes.
Remember to cut your lawn down to 1 ½ to 2 inches for winter. Many people think that leaving the grass long will help for winter, when the truth is that it will only help harboring pests like mice and voles. If you follow these suggestions for lawn maintenance in the fall, there is no reason that your yard will look fantastic the following summer!