Fall is, in fact, the best time of the year for lawn care. Midwest lawns, usually a combination of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass, grow rapidly in spring and fall. But if you only fertilize once a year, the best time to do it is around Labor Day.
With just one feeding in September, you'll see improvement from summer damage. But don't stop there. The real improvement comes with the second feeding in late fall. This second fall feeding helps to lock in the early fall gains in turf vitality and carry them forward into next spring. This extra effort gives your grass everything it needs to prepare for winter. The roots will absorb and store vital nutrients and continue underground root development until the ground freezes solid. Once spring arrives, the grass will quickly tap this stored-up nutrition to stimulate growth and burst into a vibrant, deep green lawn. A lawn fed twice in the fall will be the first to green up in spring.
The best lawn fertilizers contain slow-release or controlled-release nitrogen. Look on the label for slow-release forms such as ureaform which stimulate uniform growth over a period of time and are less likely to burn the grass. One favorite of many landscape turf professionals is environmentally-friendly Gro-Power controlled release nitrogen 12-8-8 with micronutrients. This product can also be used for general feeding of trees, shrubs and planting beds. Gro-Power will also help your lawn with the addition of quality compost. The foundation of Gro-Power is a unique compost: a highly-available, long-lasting organic blend of humus, humic acid and special, soil-conditioning bacteria. Gro-Power's bacteria will help change the physical condition of the soil and convert the insoluble and unavailable nutrients into a usable form. Its humus consists of plant material that has been composted beyond the fiber state. Unlike compost from your backyard stash, its benefits are immediately available to unlock the nutrients in your soil and help give the grass the kind of nourishment that can build up the roots quickly. This special compost also loosens compacted and heavy soils and helps to increase the soil's moisture retention capacity.
In addition to feeding your lawn, remember to remove fallen leaves before they accumulate and cover the grass, robbing your lawn of the sunlight it needs for photosynthesis. And don't put that mower away quite yet. Grass should be mowed until it stops growing throughout the fall removing no more than 1/3 of the height of the grass blade. Resist the temptation to mow your grass short going into winter. Also, lawns need about an inch of water a week to thrive. If you are not getting enough precipitation, you may need to water your lawn. Finally, aerate the lawn if you find that it has more than a half-inch of thatch. Thatch is the brown, dead material that is between the roots and the green growth. Aerating will help thatch to decompose and open the soil to more oxygen. Leave the aerated plugs on the lawn surface where they can break down.
That's it! By the time you sit down for turkey with the family, you'll have a happier, healthier lawn ready for winter just waiting to make you proud in spring.