Carved pumpkins, sweater weather, and gorgeous leaves are all things we associate with autumn. But when in comes to fall there’s something else to consider: Your lawn. The steps you take now during the fall months will determine the health of your lawn for seasons to come. By adhering to a handful of simple tips, you can greatly increase the chances you’ll experience a thriving, productive lawn once spring rolls around. Here’s 7 essential lawn and garden tips for fall.
Keep Watering and Mowing
It might come as a surprise, but during fall you should continue to water and mow your lawn more or less as usual. In general, it’s a good idea to lower your mower’s cutting setting to approximately 2 inches in height, as shorter grass tends to fare better in autumn (shorter grass means more sunlight exposure, which makes for a healthier lawn).
Aerate the Soil
Oxygen, water, and fertilizer cannot penetrate the soil if it’s too tightly compacted. That’s where aeration comes in—and fall is the perfect time to do it. By puncturing holes in your lawn, and removing plugs of soil here and there, you give your yard the opportunity to absorb any surface nutrients it might have otherwise been missing. Tip: for best results, fertilize just after aerating your lawn.
An even blanket of dry fertilizer applied in mid to late fall is a smart way to ensure a healthier, more productive lawn through the rest of the year. We recommend going organic with your fertilizer if at all possible.
Rake Up Those Leaves
As fallen leaves pile up on your lawn, they begin to choke the life out of your greenery. Robbed of oxygen and sunlight, the soil becomes less and less fertile. To give your lawn the best chance of flourishing in spring, keep it free of leaves through the fall and winter months.
Use Plant-Based Pest Control
Making your yard inhospitable to pests will save your lawn considerable damage during the fall months. We recommend treating your yard with a non-toxic outdoor pesticide. Here’s how to do it:
- Thoroughly spray the entire yard. Be sure to spray all hedges, shrubbery, flower gardens, bases of trees, and anywhere else bugs might hide.
- When spraying, pay special attention to the perimeter of your yard and home, including all fencing, foundations and brick barriers. This will prevent bugs from entering your yard or home after treatment.
- During the fall months, we advise spraying your yard at least once every 4-6 weeks, or more as needed
Cedarwood chips can also be used to create a repellent perimeter around your lawn and home. Simply sprinkle the chips along your home’s foundation and fence line, as well as any other insect trouble areas.
Kill the Weeds
Weeds are most vulnerable to herbicides in fall. If you’re hoping to finally conquer those pesky weeds, now’s the time. Be cautious when choosing an herbicide, however, as most are extremely toxic and unsafe for pets, people and the environment. Tip: Go with a non-toxic alternative instead.
Fill in the Bald Spots
Thick, healthier lawns are less susceptible to harmful pests and weeds—and filling in your yard’s bald spots is one of the easiest ways to achieve a healthier lawn. In fall, the ground is still warm, there’s plenty of moisture and there’s less direct sunlight drying out the soil, so seeds are more likely to take hold now than summer or spring. We recommend consulting a lawn and garden store regarding your specific grass and soil types, but in general an all-in-one organic repair mixture is the most convenient option for naturally filling in bald spots.
When it comes to weed control, the world’s on edge. Monsanto—producer of the most financially successful weed-killer on the planet, Roundup—is currently locked in a mess of legal battles. Rumor and science have it that Roundup’s active ingredient, Glyphosate, causes cancer. As the most widely used herbicide on the planet—on average, a pound of Roundup is used on every acre of cropland in the U.S., half a pound on every acre of cropland worldwide—these findings should alarm all of us.
This is yet another reminder why it’s important to seek out non-toxic alternatives to chemical-based herbicides and pesticides. The truth is when it comes to weeds, you can go natural and still get the results you’re looking for. Whereas traditional weed-killers endanger our soil, our water, family and pets, the following chemical-free alternatives threaten only one organism: Weeds!
Sodium makes soil less hospitable to dandelions and other common weeds. To prevent weeds and other unwanted grasses from growing, use baking soda. Apply the baking soda at roughly 1 teaspoon per individual weed plant, being sure to cover the entire plant—including stem, leaves and flowers. Baking soda can also be applied by sweeping it into sidewalk cracks and other common problem areas. Tip: be careful and precise when using baking soda to eliminate weeds, as the sodium can also kill surrounding plant life.
Salt works the same way baking soda does: sodium helps kill and prevent weed growth. Mix a solution of 1 cup salt to 2 cups water, and apply it to any undesirable plant growth using a spray bottle. This solution can also be boiled and then applied for added weed-killing power. Caution: never use more salt than necessary, as considerable salting of soil can render it unhealthy.
Have some extra vodka lying around? If so, you also have a free DIY weed-eliminator. Mix 1 oz. of vodka with 2 cups of water and a few drops of liquid dish soap in a spray bottle. Apply the mixture in the heat of the day, thoroughly coating the weeds’ leaves. This solution works by breaking down the weeds’ natural waxy coat, making them vulnerable to sun damage and dehydration. Note: this method does not work for weeds growing in shade.
The obvious tried-and-true method of pulling weeds by hand is still one of the best. This approach is easiest when the soil is soft and wet, like just after a light rainfall. For detailed instructions on how to properly pull weeds, click here.
Vinegar is a fast and highly effective natural weed-killer. While both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar will work, agricultural-strength vinegar is the most convenient and effective option. Using a spray bottle, thoroughly soak both the foliage and lower stem of each weed plant. Apply with caution, as vinegar kills most types of plant life, not just weeds. If it rains shortly after application, you may need to reapply once the soil has dried out again.
Corn Gluten Meal
While corn gluten meal—a finely ground byproduct of the corn milling process—won’t kill existing weeds, it’s a miracle solution for preventing weed growth. In effect, corn gluten meal works by preventing weed seeds from germinating, and ultimately sprouting. Best of all, corn gluten meal doubles as a nutrient-rich plant food.
When boiled, basic household tap water transforms into a weed-destroying formula. Simply pour the boiling water anywhere you’re experiencing weed troubles (careful—boiling water can also kill surrounding plant life if not applied directly to the weeds alone). Please exercise extreme caution when using this approach.
As with other plants, weeds cannot grow without sunlight. Kill weeds by denying them of this essential element. Using biodegradable newspapers (most are), completely cover the weeds and then thoroughly coat the newspaper-covered weeds with a two-inch-thick bed of mulch. Note: any grass or plants similarly covered will likely die as well, so apply carefully.
Toxic, unnatural oils like motor oil are a big no-no, but new or used vegetable oil is both eco-safe and effective at killing weeds. Entirely coat unwanted weeds by carefully pouring vegetable oil on both foliage and stem. The weeds will be gone in no time.
Like all living organisms, weeds have to compete for limited resources to survive (sunlight, soil, water, etc). Researchers at Cornell University found that certain ground-covering plants are especially good at robbing weeds of these necessary resources. Install the following plants to help keep weeds out of your garden:
- Emerald blue moss phlox
- Thriller lady’s mantle
- Walker’s low catmint
- Golden fleece dwarf goldenrod
- Albiflorus creeping thyme
- Herman’s pride false lamium
- Majestic Lilyturf