Fall lawn care tips

Submitted Photo Giving your lawn a little extra care now will help prepare it for the long winter ahead. Photo from Pixabay.

Come September in North Dakota the weather can really leave you guessing. You never really know when that first frost will happen or even if it may snow. Hoping the frost holds off until later in the month is like a game of roulette, hoping that little ball bouncing around lands on the number you bet on – then snowfall is anyone’s guess. The earliest blizzard conditions have been recorded as early as Oct. 5.

As fall draws near, many of us stop our lawn care regimens, mainly because we are tired of all the work however, fall happens to be the best time for lawn care. Giving your lawn a little extra care now will help prepare it for the long winter ahead. Great improvement will show come spring.

Mow Less

As the weather starts to cool, lessen the frequency of mowing. Cool season grasses actively grow when air temperatures are between 55- and 75-degrees F. You may also begin lowering the mower blade back down, just a notch at a time with longer periods between cutting. Once the temperature is below 55 degrees F, grass growth slows significantly, to where you can stop mowing for the year. You may want to mow just one last time to clean up the lawn.

Keeping your lawn short going into winter will help reduce snow mold and vole damage. With the grass blades being shorter, there will be less matting caused by snow sitting on the lawn and in turn, less snow mold. Another benefit of shorter grass is that voles are less likely to create nests.


Late August to mid-September is the best time to aerate your lawn. If you miss out doing it in the fall, spring is another great time to aerate. Aerating is recommended every one to five years in our northern climate. If you have heavy foot traffic, your lawn would benefit from more frequent aeration.

Aeration helps with soil compaction, reduces thatch, stimulates new growth, helps with water and nutrient absorption in soil, and helps smooth out bumpy lawns. Aerators can be rented on a daily basis, so there is no need to purchase and store another piece of equipment. With that being said though, most healthy lawns do not need to be aerated.


Thatch is the buildup of roots and shoots resistant to decay beneath the healthy grass in your lawn. Dethatching removes this buildup. You really only need the dethatch if your lawn has more than one and a half inches of thatch. If it is less than that, dethatching is not necessary.

Over Seeding

Over seeding is typically done in the fall. The warm temperatures allow the seed ample time to germinate while the cooler air temperatures are ideal for growth. Any seeding method you choose will work as long as it is evenly distributed. Over seeding works especially well when done in conjunction with core aeration of your lawn. Over seeding helps to keep weeds out of your lawn, too.

Dormant Seeding

The best time to practice dormant seeding is from late October through mid-November, right before the first snowfall. The idea is that the grass seeds will remain dormant through the colder months of winter and then begin to germinate as soil temperatures begin to warm up in the spring. This will prevent seeding in the spring when the soil is still wet and cold.

Weed Control

Fall is the best time for broadleaf weed control after a hard frost. At this time, the weeds are trying to absorb all the nutrients they can, taking everything they can get down to their roots for storage until spring. Use the weed control method of your preference now to greatly reduce the number of broadleaf weeds in the following year. Read the label, follow manufacturer directions, and use only herbicides for lawns. I have witnessed people spraying the wrong herbicide on their lawn and killing every blade of grass.


Put down the last application of fertilizer right around Labor Day. It is a bad idea to apply fertilizer in mid-summer, when the temperatures are soaring. However, done too late in the fall does no good either. Apply fertilizer before the grass goes dormant so there is still ample time for the grass roots to absorb the nutrients.

Remove Leaves

Mulching tree leaves is very good for your lawn, but if there are more mulched leaves on your grass than grass, it would be better to rake and pick them up. If it is just a few, the leaves will easily decompose and add nutrients to the grass.

For additional information about lawn care, ag.ndsu.edu/horticulture/lawns-1 is a great place to look.

Did You Know?

– Grasslands make up 20% of the vegetation covering the earth. Grass is found on every continent in the world. Yep, even on Antarctica there is grass “Deschampsia Antarctica,” common name Antarctica Hair Grass.

– Grass can be found in various types of bread, whiskey, and beer. We think of grass as only being lawns, however, bakers and brewers use the grains of different types of grasses to produce some of our favorite products.

– Grass is one of the oldest living organisms that humans have discovered. What is older than grass? I feel like it some days! But I jest. There is nothing much older than grass. Scientists have identified a species of grass that dates back to 200,000 years ago. Sea Grass, a species of grass from the Mediterranean Sea, is possibly the oldest organism in the world…so far!

– The average healthy lawn has millions of grass plants – a healthy lawn has six grass plants per one square inch.

– Using a push mower, a 150-pound person can burn around 380 calories in 30 minutes. Important to know, because most donuts are around 350 calories.

– Water makes up 75-80% of grass’s weight. During the summer, about 238 gallons of water are used watering the lawn per household.

– About 65,00 persons are hospitalized each year with lawn-mowing related injuries.

– Pink Flamingos are the most popular yarn decoration sold. Don Featherstone designed them in 1957. Their popularity has risen since the 1980s. Thanks to Don, around 250,000 of these pink beauties adorn lawns each year.

Happy Gardening!


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