The changing of seasons often brings certain adjustments to your regular lawn maintenance routines. After providing your warm season lawn with constant hands-on care throughout the summer, many homeowners are ready to take a step back as their lawns approach winter dormancy.
Although fall lawn care can be less demanding than summer maintenance, a healthy lawn still needs attention to ensure green-up in the spring. What some don’t realize is that the success of the lawn’s spring green-up greatly depends on the maintenance that goes into it before winter dormancy.
In this article, we’ll reveal the top fall secrets to achieve a healthy spring lawn, but first, let’s talk about winter dormancy.
What is winter dormancy?
Winter dormancy is a natural process in which warm season grass enters a period of rest and preservation while sunlight and heat aren’t as available. Warm season grasses include zoysia grass, St. Augustine grass, bermuda grass, centipede grass and others.
Cool season grasses like bluegrass, fescue or ryegrass also enter dormancy, but they do this during the summer season.
The purpose of dormancy is for the lawn to conserve its nutrients and enable it to survive the low temperatures of winter.
When does grass go dormant?
Warm season grasses will not enter winter dormancy until late fall when soil temperatures drop and remain below 55 degrees (typically sometime after mid-September when temperatures are 65 degrees Fahrenheit depending on your geographic location).
As previously mentioned, cool season grasses like bluegrass, fescue or ryegrass also enter dormancy, but they do this during the summer season.
Of course, it’s important to note that every type of grass has a slightly different growing period. Thus, not all lawns will go dormant at the same time of year. Learn more about warm season winter dormancy here.
Photo Credit: University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources.
When does bermuda grass go dormant?
Bermuda grass will slowly stop growing once temperatures drop to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and soil temperatures are about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
When does zoysia grass go dormant?
Zoysia grass will go dormant when temperatures are lower than 65 degrees Fahrenheit and soil temperatures are about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
When does centipede grass go dormant?
Centipede grass is sensitive to cold and thus enters dormancy around the same time as other warm season grasses, typically when temperatures are below 65 degrees Fahrenheit and soil temperatures are about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
When does St. Augustine grass go dormant?
Similar to other warm season grasses, St. Augustine grass will slow down in growth as temperatures drop. It will enter dormancy when temperatures drop 65 degrees Fahrenheit and soil temperatures are about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Apply a Fertilizer
To ensure fast green-up in the spring, apply fertilizer to warm season grass before it enters dormancy. This will provide your lawn with the nutrients it needs to survive the winter. The grass blades will turn brown, but the roots underneath the soil’s surface are still alive and store these nutrients until it comes out of dormancy.
We like to recommend the Lawnifi® Fall Fertilizer Box that comes with three bottles of liquid fertilizer. Applications of each bottle follow a schedule throughout the fall.
Powered by Catalyst TechnologyTM, Lawnifi is a carbon-based fertilizer program that maximizes plant uptake and nutrient availability to help improve soil structure and enhance the growth of microbial populations. Catalyst Technology nano-sizes Lawnifi’s nutrients so that more of them are absorbed through the roots and leaves.
Learn more about the Fall Fertilizer Box here.
Apply a Pre-Emergent Herbicide
Fall is one of the most effective times to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to lawns. As the name suggests, a pre-emergent herbicide prevents weeds while a post-emergent treats currently existing weeds.
The application of pre-emergent herbicides will ensure weeds do not overtake your lawn once spring arrives. One of the most infamous hard-to-control weeds you may recognize is Poa annua. Post-emergents aren’t always effective, which is why it’s best to prevent them with a pre-emergent. Although this weed tends to show up in the spring, it actually germinates during the fall, which is why it can be tricky to control. Learn more about fall pre-emergent applications here and as always, apply treatment to your lawn according to the directions on the label.
Apply a Preventative Fungicide
In addition to applying a pre-emergent herbicide, fall is the ideal time to apply a preventative fungicide. Fall is one of the prime times for disease outbreaks. Once the lawn goes dormant and turns brown, discoloration caused by disease damage is hard to see until the grass greens up in the spring.
Don’t Stop Mowing Yet
Although the grass is no longer in its peak growing season, it’s still a good idea to mow your grass until it enters dormancy. Generally, it’s best to continue mowing until temperatures drop to below 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
Our recommendation is to keep your grass a bit taller than normal. When grass is too short, it doesn’t offer as much protection and allows for frost to get into the growing areas of your lawn. Keeping this area as protected as possible with slightly taller grass creates a barrier-like protection for the grass blades and stolons.
Now is also a great time to winterize your lawn mower.
Finally, your lawn will continue to need water. Even though it’s brown and dormant, it’s not dead and still needs water to survive. However, irrigation should be reduced. It doesn’t have to be watered as much as the active growing seasons (spring, summer, fall). Learn more about lawn maintenance in our care guides.
Following these simple yet effective steps will ensure your lawn survives the cold temperatures of winter. Although your grass may not be growing as rapidly as during the summer months, it will still continue growing until temperatures drop to about 65 degrees Fahrenheit and soil temperatures are about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, caring for your lawn during the fall will encourage healthy growth this autumn, as well as fast green-up in the spring.