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University of Minnesota Extension

Fall lawn care

Fall lawn care

By Katie Drewitz, University of Minnesota Extension 

PRESTON and CALEDONIA, Minn. (08/22/2023) —As the summer starts to wind down, it is time to start thinking about our fall lawn care. Your actions this fall will directly impact the health of your lawn next spring.

Late August and September is the best time of the year to plant grass seed if needed.  The grass seed will germinate readily, and the cooler soil will encourage it to develop a good root system that will carry it through the winter. You will need to water the grass seed on a regular basis to ensure germination. Seeding now allows for grass to establish better than in the spring when grass seeds must compete with germinating weed seeds. Be cautious of seed mixtures that contain a high amount of annual seeds as those plants will not survive the winter. 

If you wish to eliminate weeds in your lawn, autumn is the time to control perennial broad-leaf weeds such as common dandelion, creeping Charlie and plantain. Be sure to do a lawn assessment prior to deciding if treatment is needed. Perennial weeds move the sugars produced in the leaves to underground roots or rhizomes for the winter and to fuel next year's growth during the Fall months.  This movement of sugars continues as long as the plants are not killed by frost and 50-75% of their leaves are still green and actively growing.  Herbicides that are systemic and move within the plant are carried with the sugars to effectively kill the plants at the root in the fall. Although the death of weeds may not be obvious in the Fall, most of them will not come back next spring. Spot spraying or hand-pulling is generally better than applying herbicide to the entire lawn. Take caution when using chemicals and always read and follow the label. 

Now is also the time to consider aerating and dethatching your lawn. Compacted soils and soils with poor drainage accumulate thatch faster than well-drained soils. Aerification promotes better moisture and air penetration into compacted soils. It helps establish a deeper and healthier root system and also stimulates the microbial activity involved in decomposing the thatch layer. 

For an improved lawn in the spring, use the autumn months to take care of seeding and weed control. Review the full lawn care calendar for more information.

If you have questions or would like more information about Fall lawn care please reach out to your local Extension Educator. Residents in Fillmore and Houston counties can call 507-765-3896 or 507-725-5807 or email wins0115@umn.edu

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