Lawns are lush, green and full of life. But as the days become shorter and the nights colder, lawns are slowing their growth. Soon it will be time to put away the mower for winter.
There are, however, some late-season chores that will help make lawn care easier next spring.
Grass growth is slowing, so there is less need to mow regularly. Before firing up the mower for the last time this season, consider leaving the grass a bit taller. In this region, people do not normally have to worry about cool-season lawns being winter killed. Therefore, it is acceptable to keep the grass mowed at the normal 2 1/2 to 3 inches. However, for people with no time to mow, there is nothing wrong with allowing the grass to grow higher and waiting until next spring. The grass should never be mowed lower than 2 inches. This robs the plant of stored energy, opens the way for weeds to germinate and can allow soil erosion to occur on steep, sloping hills.
The next important practice is to fertilize. Even though the grass-shoots are not active, the grass roots are. Searching for and storing nutrients that will be used for spring growth. Fertilizer spread at this time will pay big dividends next April. Your lawn will be greener and thicker next season. Any fertilizer will work. Typically, use a fertilizer that has a quick-release nitrogen source. Likewise, there is no real need to add phosphorous or potassium in great amounts. Therefore, any high nitrogen fertilizer or even straight nitrogen will work fine. Apply the recommended 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet and water it in well.
Now is the time to worry about weeds. Even though they may seem dormant, dandelions, clover, henbit, chickweed and other weeds are alive. When spraying for these weeds, use Trimec and apply it when the temperatures are above 55 degrees. Chemicals applied this time of year are taken directly to the roots where they will kill the plant quickly.
When raking of leaves, simply mow them where they lay. Research conducted at Michigan State University revealed that 6 inches of leaves mowed in place did not harm the grass. To be successful, begin by mowing over the leaves two or three times to mulch them finely; then make a third and final application of lawn fertilizer for the year; end by watering well.