The heat of the summer is coming to an end and the first day of fall is approaching! As outdoor temperatures drop, your soil conditions change and as a result, the nutrients your grass requires also alter. It’s important that you also change up your fall maintenance plans for your cool season grasses such as bluegrass and fescue. Read on for a full compilation of fall lawn maintenance tips including mowing heights, watering schedules, weed control and many others. Be sure to also check out our Homeowner Maintenance Guides for generic bluegrass, Bella® Bluegrass or generic fescue. If you’re looking for maintenance tips for a different type of grass, take a look at our Fall Lawn Maintenance Tips article.
1. Maintain a Consistent Mowing Height
The height you usually mow your bluegrass or fescue year-round should typically fall within the 2.5–3.5 inch range. The mowing height should remain the same during the upcoming cooler months. This mowing height helps prevent snow mold in snow prone regions. If you would like to learn more about generalized mowing heights for each grass type, visit our Lawn Mowing Guide.
2. Water Less as Temperatures Drop
It’s a good idea to water your lawn less as temperatures drop. Too much water will lead to disease around this time. Temperatures are changing and so are soil conditions—in turn, this invites perfect conditions of fungus outbreaks. Having a carpet of leaves that create shady areas in your lawn may contribute to the likelihood of turfgrass disease as well. You will still want to water to prevent drought stress while the grass is actively growing. Read our blog on Autumn’s Fallen Leaves: How to Manage Them to learn more. Bluegrass and fescue require about 1–1.25 inches of water per week including rainfall. Watering in the early morning will decrease the risk of certain turfgrass disease. If you would like to learn more about irrigation for each grass type, visit our Lawn Irrigation Guide.
3. Fertilize Your Lawn with the Right Nutrients
Fertilization differs this time of the year compared to the other active growing seasons (spring and summer). As previously stated, outdoor temperatures are starting to change—so are soil conditions. Your grass is a living thing that needs specific nutrients at this time.
Sod University recommends two different fertilizer options for the fall, however, you will only need to use one of the two options for fall fertilization. The Fall Fertilizer Box, in particular, has three separate bottles of liquid fertilizer in it that help your lawn recover from the hot summer temperatures it just endured as well as prepare for the colder temperatures ahead.
In the early fall, you will start off with applying Boost to revitalize the green leaf blade color after the heat of summer. In certain areas, your cool season grass went dormant for the duration of summer. Boost brings a vibrant green color back to your cool season lawn as it comes out of dormancy and recovers from heat stress. The rapid green-up of your lawn will last from the time of application through the remainder of the growing season with Boost’s time release formula.
In the mid-fall, you should make an application of the second bottle in the box, Maintain, for well-balanced nutrition. Maintain serves to help with color retention late into the cooler months ahead and fortifies the root system to help it survive throughout cooler weather or snow. In the late fall, you should apply Recover to prepare your lawn for environmental stressors of this colder weather. You can read more about The Fall Fertilizer Box and it’s mixture of nutrients in a separate Sod University blog here.
Lawnifi Foundation is a slow-release granular fertilizer option that comes in a 25 pound bag and lasts for three months. With a 29-0-5 NPK formulation, Lawnifi Foundation is the perfect granular fertilizer for lawns and gardens. The two percent iron included in Lawnifi Foundation’s mixture helps plants carry oxygen throughout the leaves, roots and other parts of the plants to promote a green, healthy lawn. Featuring slow-release nitrogen, Foundation gradually feeds your lawn over an extended period of time without overwhelming your lawn with nitrogen during the fall. Both Lawnifi Foundation and the Fall Fertilizer Box cover 5,000 sq. ft. Learn more in Granular vs. Liquid Fertilizers or by clicking on the two products below. For more generic information about the Lawnifi brand, read Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer?.
4. Control Weeds with Pre- and Post-Emergent Herbicides
Your bluegrass or fescue lawn has just made it through the summer months when it is not a recommended time for herbicide applications due to hot temperatures. Now that it is starting to cool down, you are free to apply both post-emergent and pre-emergent herbicides without risking any damage if applied properly. You may even notice that the weeds from summertime are starting to die off. Unfortunately, there are winter weeds that will start to pop up when the months are colder too. We recommend applying a pre-emergent during the fall to prevent winter weeds.
The difference between pre- and post-emergent herbicides is that post-emergent herbicides control any current weeds you are experiencing whereas pre-emergent herbicides, as the name suggests, serves to prevent weeds from appearing. Apply pre-emergents labeled to control any weeds that may appear over the fall and winter months. Some common winter weeds to look out for include chickweed and henbit.
Fall is actually the best time to apply a pre-emergent—especially if winter weeds have been a big problem in the past years. You can also do this in the springtime around March or April. Check out some of our recommended pre-emergent products below and be sure to read labels thoroughly before application. Read more about pre-emergent applications in the fall in How to Use a Pre-Emergent Herbicide in the Fall and learn about the various types of weeds in Identifying Common Lawn Weeds.
It’s better to apply an insecticide as a preventative as opposed to having to resolve an infestation once damage has already occurred—it’s probably less expensive too. Apply a broad-spectrum insecticide to prevent any harmful insects from taking over your bluegrass or fescue lawn. Although there could be a variety of insects that may be invading your lawn at this time, the main ones most universities recommend you look out for in your lawn are grub worms. If you have insect activity, treat with an insecticide labeled to treat the insect you are seeing. Be sure to read product labels thoroughly before application. If you use a granular variety, water the lawn immediately after application to help with absorption. Visit our Insect Identification blog for more details.
6. Prevent Disease Outbreaks as Temperatures Change
We recommend applying a systemic fungicide at preventative rates around the beginning of the fall season or right beforehand. This helps the grass enter colder months in a healthier condition by keeping disease outbreaks at bay. If diseases are a common problem in your grass around this time, apply a fungicide at a preventative rate. This will help the grass enter colder months in a healthier condition. If you have had a fungus before, you may need to make multiple applications in affected areas. Lastly, a general rule is to water the lawn immediately after applying a granular fungicide to help soil absorption. Consider mapping those areas because fungicide treatment can be expensive. Above all, read product label instructions thoroughly before application for detailed instructions. For generalized disease control information, read Lawn Disease Control.
Tip: Remove any dead leaves.
As dead leaves accumulate on the ground during the fall, they create shady, darker spots on the lawn. Light cannot reach these areas and moisture becomes trapped. This quickly damages the grass underneath these spots. Depending on how many trees are nearby, consider raking once a week. Learn more here.
Lastly, lawn patch work and light topdressing with a sand and topsoil mix is a great way to recover any weak areas in your lawn that were caused by the summer heat. If you notice any hot spots, apply a light layer of topdressing to help it recover.