When you think about the fall across the pond, childlike ideas come to mind. You might find yourself thinking about skeletons, pumpkin spice, tricks and treats. Or you might focus on those mad leaf-blowers and viral videos of kids and dogs playing in fallen leaves.
Over here, autumn is a tad … muted in comparison to our American cousins. So while they’re obsessing on costumes and parties, you’re probably more interested in maintaining your lawn. And this is a good time to do it. So let’s explore a few top tips for autumn lawn feed.
Tips for Autumn Lawn Feed
Tip #1: Learn the Lingo
You may not think this Americanism belongs in your vocabulary, but what you’re essentially doing is winterising your lawn. That’s what they call it over there. And it essentially means prepping your lawn for winter. Think of it as plant hibernation for snow-sodden regions. You want your grass to have the best three-month nap so it wakes up healthy and well-rested.
As you work your way through the winterisation process, you’ll hear the terms cool-season grass or cold-season grass a lot. These grasses can ‘sleep’ in the winter and ‘tan’ in the summer. They do well in seasonal extremes. Snow, blizzards, ice, rain, scorching sun, biting frost – they can take it all so they’re ideal for our weather. Their typical range is 15°C to 24°C.
Tip #2: Think Pre and Post
Most tips for autumn lawn feed have two goals – keep the lawn pretty in the fall and prevent it from dying during winter. We generally receive a lot of rainfall all year round. But winter means mist and snow and fog and extra precipitation. Combined with dried air, smothered earth, and thick ground cover, your lawn could get soggy. Which means lots of lawn moss.
Try stopping the problem before it starts by getting autumn lawn feed infused with sulphur and iron. This reduces visible moss and continues to work throughout the winter. You will want to use autumn ‘post-products’ for the season. This repairs damage from the scorching summer heat. But you also want winter ‘pre-products’ with slow-release formulations.
Tip #3: Avoid the Weed and Feed
Many weed and feed articles recommend applying this mixed product in early spring or autumn. And it’s certainly convenient to do all your fall tasks at the same time. But because your autumn lawn feed is intended to prep the lawn for winter, you want something slow-releasing and preferably pre-emergent. You don’t want weeds whispering beneath the snow.
This makes it sound like you should apply weed and feed. And lots of people do because the instant greenery is comforting. But that fast-forward growth will mean you unseen grass is weak and unhealthy. Once the snow melts, you may sprout a sad and scraggly yard. So practice patience and plan your weeding and feeding separately. At least a few weeks apart.
Tip #4: Go Low On Nitro
We love high-nitrogen fertilisers because they give quick results. But if the grass shoots up too fast, it won’t be healthy so it’ll die off just as promptly. You want speed, but you also want consistency. Yes, the grass will grow during the next few months but it will soon be hidden under piles of snow. Or attacked by frost and the biting winds of winter.
So look for an autumn lawn feed with a different profile. 5:5:10 works well – five parts nitrogen, five parts phosphorous, five parts potassium. Potassium is crucial for root development and for moving nutrients throughout your plant. And since winter leads to less sunlight and the wrong kind of precipitation, you want to focus on what’s underground.
Tip #5: Get the Dosage Right
While vegetarians are rarely obese (and vegans are often mean), it’s still possible to overfeed your grass. And if you apply too much autumn lawn feed, you may burn your grass and turn it yellow. You can also cause salt to build up in the soil. Especially with quick-release lawn feed. So talk to the store owner and check the dosage instructions on your product packaging.
Watch a few demo videos on how to … feed the feed into your spreader. Measure your lawn with a tape measure – don’t eyeball it. You can also measure the yard by taking large steps along the perimeter – each step will be roughly a metre. Use a ruler to confirm. Fertilisers like this are used within minutes of mixing so be careful with your sprayer.
Tip #6: Start by Mowing
For best results, all your autumn yard work should be finished before the ber months. And before you apply any of your tips for autumn lawn feed, you need to clear the yard. You don’t need to detach just yet – or even scarify until after winter. Deep raking with a manual tool will get rid of dead leaves, loose thatch, moss, and any clutter that may be sitting on the soil.
You can use a leaf blower as well, but be deliberate about your technique. Once the yard looks less scraggly, cut the grass to your preferred length. You can trim the ‘leaf pile’ a little lower than usual so the fertiliser gets closer contact with the soil. Rake the mown grass out of the way and use it to mulch your flower beds. You can also use it for composting or burn it.
Tip #7: Aerate Your Yard
It’s a good idea to core your lawn once or twice a year. You can also aerate as an emergency solution if the ground is too compacted. Autumn is a good time for aeration because the dead leaves are starting to fall as your lawn sets itself up for winter. Depending on garden size, you can core the lawn using hand tools, garden forks, Saxon shoes, or petrol-powered devices.
A lot of UK soils are heavy on the clay so it’s best to use aerators with hollow tines. These can be manual or motorised. If it’s been raining that week, wait a day or two before aerating. If you core the lawn right after the rain, the sticky mud will cling to your tools. Compact mud might damage the engine. Also, with the soil that slick, any holes you form will immediately refill.
Tip #8: Do Some Spot Weeding
Despite all the fancy formulations and tech tools available, uprooting weeds is still the most effective solution. It takes out the fruit, leaves, seeds, and most of the roots. And autumn is a good time to weed your lawn because the soil is so soft. Meaning you need less effort to yank out the roots and you’re likely to leave loose bits rooting around in the soil, pun intended.
Autumn weather isn’t standard though, so if your area is currently mild and dry, remember to water the lawn two or three days before weeding. The idea if the get the ground damp and soft, but to stop before it gets dank and soggy. You can also buy an over-the-counter weed killer in a spray bottle. Point it directly at visible weeds and give them a little spritz.
Tip #9: Seed Your Sore Spots
As part of your autumn lawn feeding routine, you may need to add a few ‘grass babies’ tp your yard. Look around for sore spots and bald patches. These could have dried out from the summer sun. Or you might have accidentally scorched them from previous attempts at lawn dressing. Pay special attention to these spots and use a heavy rake to clear them.
If the dead patch is larger, you can scarify the spot. Invest in a machine that has interchangeable blades. That way, the spiked setting can aerate and the sliced setting can dethatch. You can even get an electric power rake with adjustable height. Use a spreader to distribute grass seeds on your newly excavated spot. This is sometimes called overseeding.
Tip #10: Spread It Around
The reason so many UK families overseed during autumn is the school year. It starts in September so your kids and pets have probably been trampling the lawn all summer long. This may have dried out the grass and compacted the clay. So before you rush to feed and restore the lawn, you need a new crop of grass seeds. Refill the lawn plugs after coring.
You can use sand to keep the holes open. Or you can scatter grass seeds in the holes and cover the seeds with organic manure. The manure holds water more effectively than regular soil. You might prefer commercial fertilisers, but be sure your brad has sulphur, seaweed, or iron supplements. They’ll help control moss and are safer than pre-emergent weed killers.
Tip #11: Choose a Convenient Tool
Have you tried (or watched) a weaning infant? Whether it’s a baby or puppy, the quality and style of the feeder affect your success rate. Are you using a plastic bottle or a DIY teat? Maybe a tiny spoon with rounded sides? Or a syringe? There are just as many options for disseminating autumn lawn feed. Some are hand-cranked while others have wheels.
Some can hold both feed and fertiliser but you probably shouldn’t risk contamination. Drop spreaders will distribute your lawn feed in rolled rows. The feed (or fertiliser) stays relatively close to the spreader so this is ideal for targeted feeding spots. If you want to feed a larger area, use a rotary spinning spreader. Its reaches farther but is more randomised.
Tip #12: Tamp It Down
Grass seeds and dry fertiliser are both granular in form. So when you spread them, they may end up sitting above existing grass blades. Then they’ll be pecked off by birds or blown away in the breeze. So after feeding and/or seeding the lawn, it helps to stomp things into places.
Drag a stiff broom across the grass. Or the flat side of a rake. It ‘combs’ the grass, depositing seeds and lawn feed closer to the soil. The rake will partially push those granules under the thatch. Follow up with a perforated roller or a lawnmower with a removable rolling cylinder attached. Or you could just shuffle your gumboots up and down the yard in systematic rows.
Tip #13: Shave Some Shade
… but don’t throw it. Look around the yard and check for shelter. In the summer, you may have erected canopies and overhangs. Or maybe you just have some large shady trees. In autumn, there’s less sunlight available. And remember, your grass doesn’t just eat sh … manure. Droppings from wild birds, dogs, chicken, or even fish can get your grass greener.
And commercial fertiliser pellets are helpful too. But your grass also needs water and sunlight as part of its diet. To grow you grass a little longer during the autumn. Water and trim the lawn four to five days after fertilising. Then let it grow out. Longer grass means more surface area for light absorption. Prune large branches and remove the tent if needed.
Tip #14: Take a Short Cut
If you apply weed and feed, your lawn will get vibrant seemingly overnight. Slow-release lawn feed will take longer. You may not see the results for several weeks, and you won’t feel the difference until the snow thaws in spring. But six months is a long time to wait for a well-fed lawn. So as you wonder how to feed your grass, consider investing in turf.
We don’t mean the artificial stuff. Grass mats are convenient, but they want washing, not feeding. So we’re talking about organic turf. Autumn is sufficiently rainy for your turf to take hold. And some landscapers offer aftercare service so they’ll come back to weed your grass and feed it at the appropriate times. All you have to do is pay the bill and set the sprinkler!
Tip #15: Double-Check the Label
The weed-and-feed debate is a tough one to resolve. But the healthy thing is to water, aerate, (dethatch if needed) weed, then feed. You can still do it on the same day, but don’t use a combined product. You can also feed your lawn with autumn feed then wait a few weeks and follow up with pre-emergent winter-guard pre-emergents. Be wary of winter-blockers though.
Why? They’re mostly mingled weed-and-feeds. So double-check the label to make sure you’re not undoing all your lawn work. The brand you buy should be slow-release to let it last through fall and winter. Verify the dosage, first aid instructions, and contra-indications for pets and kids. You can also check if your autumn lawn feed targets specific grass species.
Have you set a lawn care calendar for autumn? Tell us all about it in the comments!