Guide to Eco-Friendly Fall Lawn Care Taking Care of Your Garden Now Might Ensure a Better Next Spring
As the days dwindle down, there’s the invigorating nip in the air and the musky scent of fallen leaves. The grass has slacked off from growing. It’s no wonder you’re thinking that your lawn work is just about done. The fact is that fall lawn care is of utmost importance to the health of your lawn when it begins to grow in the spring.
The grass you see may be looking rather sluggish, but underground, it’s working hard. The roots and rhizomes are busy absorbing all the moisture, oxygen and nutrients they can to get through winter and produce a lush spring lawn. You can help ensure that they get what they need and do it in an environmentally responsible manner. Not only are you helping to save the planet, you are keeping your lawn safe for your children to play on and for your pets to scamper about. And you’ll save money–a win-win-win proposition!
The key to core aeration is by doing it at least once a year, and fall is the best time to do so to ensure that the grassroots have access to the resources they so desperately need at this time of year. Soil often becomes compacted over the summer, creating a barrier. By punching plugs out of the soil, you’re making it more receptive to water, air, and nutrients. The organisms in the soil also need air pockets to be able to eat, drink, and breathe to perform their roles in improving soil aggregation, enhancing nutrient levels, and developing organic matter in the soil.
You can rent an electrical powered core aerator from a local garden supply store to do it yourself or contact your local lawn care provider to help you out. Using an electrical powered aerator will be the faster eco-conscious way to do so. There are also specialized mechanized and manual hand tools, such as a garden fork with tines which would be the best options as far as eco-consciousness goes, but will take you a bit of time.
After the lawn is aerated is the best time to fertilize your lawn to stimulate the growth of new root systems during the winter for a lush lawn in the spring. There are a variety of organic solutions you can use that will keep the nutrients on your lawn where they belong, not in the waterways.
Valuable eco-conscious fertilizer is already right there on your lawn—grass clippings post lawn mowing and fallen leaves. Both are filled with nutrients that you may be dumping into a landfill. Return those nutrients to the soil. Chop them up with a mulching mower.
You may be surprised to learn that both aquarium fresh water and fireplace ash can be used for fertilizer. Aquarium fresh water, over time, builds up nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, ammonia, and beneficial microorganisms. When the water reaches this point, it is not a good environment for fish, but it’s great for grass. (Disclaimer: This does not apply to salt water nor to water treated with chemicals).
Fireplace ash is brimming with potassium and lime, depending on the wood that you are burning. Hardwood, such as maple and oak, has higher concentrations of nutrients than softwood, such as pine and fir. One cord (4 feet by 8 feet) of oak can fertilize a 4,200-square-foot lawn.
Like most plants, weeds are in an energy-absorbing mode during the fall. The roots are scarfing up everything they can, and your grass roots will suffer for it. Dealing with the weed invasion in the fall, will dramatically decrease the weed population in the spring.
Instead of using harmful herbicides, you could weed the lawn yourself–it makes for a great outdoor exercise. To help remove them yourself, there are really efficient tools on the market for pulling out weeds. Less effort is needed to pour boiling water onto the crowns of the weeds. Or you can spray the leaves with full-strength white vinegar. Just make sure you treat only the weeds, both hot water and vinegar will kill any form of plant life.
If you treat your lawn organically, without synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, the healthier your lawn will be. Eventually your healthy lawn will be able to ward off weeds, keep itself nourished, and self-aerate!
Timothy Johnson is a green living and landscaping expert. He can often be found hiking with his two dogs or in the lavish garden he curates in his backyard.