Autumn is the busiest time of the lawn care calendar with plenty of jobs to complete to prepare your lawn for winter.
As long as you kept up with spring and summer maintenance, autumn maintenance is pretty straightforward and shouldn’t require too much invasive action.
If your lawn has been neglected over the spring and summer or for years on end, this is the best time of year to put it right.
When to Start Your Autumn Lawn Care Routine
September is the time when I start my autumn lawn maintenance regime.
Depending on condition, maintaining your lawn can require some invasive treatments that might leave it looking messy. To make sure it’s able to recover quickly from all these efforts, we need weather conditions like plenty of rain, sunlight, and warmth. Luckily September provides this in the right amount and there are fewer weeds seeds floating around which means less chance of an infestation.
It’s important to note that temperatures start to drop at this time of year. This means you don’t have as much time to get through the work and recovery will become slower because of colder weather.
I personally like getting all my work done quickly so the lawn can recover while there is still enough sunlight for photosynthesis.
Autumn Lawn Care Maintenance Tasks
If your lawn is in good shape, you might be able to skip a few of the tasks we’re going to outline.
You might only need to keep mowing the grass and apply a fertiliser.
However, if it’s tired and in need of what I call a complete restoration, you’ll need to complete every task on this list.
Cutting the Grass
If you have a healthy lawn, keep mowing it.
The conditions are perfect for growth, so increase your frequency to at least once per week and reduce your cutting height accordingly if you prefer a close cut. Never remove more than one-third of the grass leaf in any given cut or it will never recover properly. This is known as mowing too low or short.
To get rid of moss on an established lawn, leave some extra length while trimming.
As we enter the later autumn months with reduced sunlight hours and winter approaching (around November), raise the cutting height again so there’s enough time between now and then for the grass to grow taller before colder weather.
Apply a Weed Killer to Any Weeds
Maintaining a weed-free lawn is crucial. But if you were vigilant with your weeding all season long, then the task should be relatively straightforward and easy. Keep some spot spray weed killer handy just in case any weeds pop up throughout September while they’re actively growing; otherwise it may not work as well when growth slows down later in the year.
Weed killers are usually effective at killing off weed plants within about 7 days or so.
Kill and Remove Any Moss
It is very important to remove moss from your lawn if it does appear. Moss will slowly damage the health of any plants in its reach, so you need to take care that all moss patches are removed before they can do too much harm and end up damaging other areas.
Use a moss killer and allow it to get to work over a week or two. If there is still some left, I recommend using an electric rake with either metal tines or nylon bristles. One way to rake involves going lengthways first for one pass and 45 degrees outwards for another.
This will remove most of the moss present.
Scarify to Remove Excess Lawn Thatch
Scarifying your lawn can help to remove thatch. This is the time of year when you should do it, but do not wait too long.
The process requires patience and persistence and your scarifier will need a high setting to work properly. Try different settings until you find one that works best for removing the material without destroying other parts of your lawn.
Once you have found the perfect setting on your machine, go ahead and start working in sections lengthways before going back over at an angle 45 degrees from where you just worked (make sure during these passes to rake up all debris).
Aerate to Relieve Soil Compaction and Improve Air Flow
Aeration is an important to stimulate growth in lawns. If the soil isn’t compacted, use spikes that can be pushed into turf or rolling spike aerators which are great for larger areas. You may also want to hire machines if you have a large garden and heavy clay soils so that it will take less time than using hollow tining forks.
Hollow-tining is a process that removes cores of turf, creating hundreds and thousands of little holes. This allows the existing soil particles room to relax into and separate from each other – allowing water, air and nutrients into the soil for new growth.
Apply a Top Dressing to Add Nutrients to the Existing Soil
If your lawn is in good condition, you could choose to skip this step. But if you’re a serious gardener with an immaculate bowling green lawn or renovating, top dressing becomes essential.
Remember to do it after scarifying and aerating; otherwise there will be no nutrients left in the soil that can make their way down into these newly created pathways.
Top – dressing also does wonders when it comes to lawn evenness. It provides microorganisms which break down organic material for your your grass, so they don’t become overgrown with thatch while levelling out any bumps along its surface so as not to leave any unsightly uneven surfaces.
Remember to never apply too thickly. 75% of the grass plant should remain visible.
Overseed With New Grass Seed
If you’ve raked, scarified, aerated or top-dressed your lawn and are now ready to plant new grass seed then there’s a few steps that will ensure it grows well. First, choose the right type of seeds for your lawn; if shaded by trees use one made for shade rather than sunlight.
If kids play football on it in summer, make sure you buy hard wearing seed varieties. An even surface is achieved with overseeding by using a spreader. Be sure to cover the whole lawn rather than just the bare patches.
Learn more: Best Grass Seed Reviews UK – My Top 5 Picks
Apply an Autumn Lawn Feed
It’s important to feed your lawn in autumn for two reasons.
Doing so will replace the nutrients the grass consumed during the summer months and harden (strengthen) the grass turf in preparation for the colder months ahead.
Make sure you use an autumn / winter fertiliser as it contains less nitrogen than spring / summer lawn feed.
If you use a spring / summer feed in autumn, you’ll cause the grass to surge in growth when it should start slowing down. This will lead to death as the lawn won’t be able to sustain this growth over winter.
Learn more: Why, When and How to Feed Your Lawn
Water (If Needed)
The rains come in September so get your autumn jobs done on the dry days.
You may need to turn the sprinklers on if we experience an Indian Summer with sun hanging around and rain is absent. It is very important to water. This assists with fertiliser activation and grass seed germination.
It’s best if lawns recover as quickly as possible from any drought conditions before winter arrives so they are strong enough to withstand cold temperatures.
Clear Leaves and Debris
As the autumn weeks go by, leaves will start falling off trees and bushes in your garden. Make sure to remove any that land on grassed areas as they can cause diseases like Dollar Spot, Rust or Red Thread. These fallen leaves will also cause an increase in worm activity.
You can use a rake for larger leaf piles while using a garden vac or rotary mower too.
Look for Worm Casts
As the weather cools down, worms become more active as they come to the surface to feed on fallen leaves and other debris.
They leave slimy worm casts behind that can make a mess. They are packed full of nutrients though, so wait until it’s dry and brush them back into the soil.
This is the exact process of how I complete my autumn lawn care regime.
You don’t have as much time to complete all this work as you do in the spring, so start early before the colder weather sets in. You will find that once weeds and moss are dead, the rest of this work can be completed in a couple of days.
If done properly, this process will make caring for your lawn in winter very easy.