9 Fall Lawn Care Tips for Greener Grass in Spring (Prepare Your Lawn Before Winter)


Nothing makes a person feel more house-proud than a glowing green lawn. But let’s be honest, trying to revive your winter beaten grass can feel daunting if you don’t know where to start.

The truth is, colder winter weather causes lawn growth to slow down and the grass to go dormant, but with good fall lawn preparation techniques, you can help it to bounce back quicker next spring.

Growing a healthy green lawn doesn’t have to be a guessing game.

When you follow these 9 fall lawn maintenance and care tips, your lawn will thank you by bearing a lush green carpet all your neighbors will envy. And who doesn’t want that?

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How to Take Care of Your Lawn in the Fall?

The fall season is typically the time when gardening activities start to dwindle, because of the cooling temperature. But the secret to a luscious lawn in the coming spring season is to put a little more effort into your lawn care during the fall months.

The good news is, fall lawn care doesn’t require back-breaking effort because the grass growth has started to slow down. All you are doing is giving your lawn a little boost of strength before its long nap.

So let’s get to work.

Follow these 9 steps for lawn maintenance in the fall season.

mowing the grass with a push lawn mower in garden

Gradually Reduce Your Mowing Height to Prevent Lawn Diseases in Winter

As the weather gets cooler your lawn starts to become dormant and doesn’t need as much surface for photosynthesis.

But don’t adjust the height to the shortest cut right away because the grass blades need time to adapt—rather reduce the cut length by half an inch every second week, as your mowing frequency decreases.

But why does the lawn need to be shorter in winter?

Longer blades of grass run the risk of becoming compressed under heavy snow in winter, which weakens the shaft and results in an unhealthy and thinner lawn.

The flattened grass blades can develop snow mold, and this can eventually lead to bald spots in the lawn surface which allows for more weeds to take root.

The best way to prepare your lawn for the inactive winter period is to cut it to a length of 2 ½ inches.

Have a look at our lawn mower buyer’s guide where we discuss various height-adjustable lawn mowers to help you choose one that suits your lawn mowing needs.

person holding water hose and watering lawn

Water Your Lawn with Longer Intervals between Watering as the Weather Gets Cooler

You should still be watering your lawn in the fall because it is still growing, even if it is slowing down.

The general rule for maintaining a healthy lawn is to water less frequently but soak the soil so that the roots are encouraged to grow deeper.

In fall you should water your lawn to about one inch deep, once a week. When colder weather brings frost or snow you should stop watering the lawn.

Remove Layers of Fallen Leaves so Your Lawn can Get More Sunlight

A light blanket of leaves on a lawn can serve as mulch to prevent moisture loss, but most lawn pros will insist that fallen leaves be raked up and removed from the grass surface quickly to prevent damage to the grass.

It’s important to allow your lawn to get as much sunlight as possible in the fall before it goes into its dormant period.

Use a leaf blower or lawn sweeper to quickly rid your lawn of dead leaves. We put together a comprehensive buyer’s guide on lawn sweepers to help you decide what lawn sweeper to choose based on your lawn size and other garden factors.

Husqvarna lawnmower tractor with lawn sweeper

Apply Weed Killer to the Lawn if Necessary

Unfortunately, many types of weeds germinate in the fall, so treating your lawn for weed invasion will stop those seeds from taking root and ruining your grass.

Luckily, there are specially developed weed killers that can target specific growth phases that will neutralize the germinating weed seed but leave your already established lawn unharmed.

Read this article on pre/post-emergent herbicides and selective/non-selective herbicides for more clarity on what type of weed killer you will need to apply to your lawn.

Feed Your Lawn with Fertilizer to Give It Denser Coverage

The early morning dew in fall provides the perfect moist balance to deliver a slow release of nutrients to your lawn.

Feeding your grass with fertilizer before winter allows your lawn to build resilience against the coming cold, and store energy for spring.

Scarify the Lawn Using a Rake to Remove Dead Material

Think of this as giving your lawn a thorough brushing and massage before it settles in for the winter.

Scarifying is essential to properly remove twigs, pebbles, and other dead organic matter from your lawn so that the blades can plump up and the roots, stolons, and rhizomes are stimulated and encouraged to grow.

Scarification removes thatch that naturally occurs on grass surfaces. This video explains the benefits of scarifying your lawn as well as the correct techniques and frequency to ensure optimal growth.

Aerate Your Lawn to Allow Water and Fertilizer to Be Easily Absorbed by the Grass Roots

Like everything else in life, your lawn also needs to breathe. Lawn aeration involves poking holes into the lawn so that water and nutrients can penetrate the soil and encourage healthier root growth.

There are two main methods of lawn aeration—spike and core aeration. The most effective method of aeration is core aeration because it improves water and absorption and prevents debris accumulation.

Our in-depth article on lawn aeration covers the methods and benefits of aerating your lawn and the recommended frequency.

Topdress Your Lawn to Improve the Drainage and Add Essential Nutrients to Your Soil

Topdressing a lawn is laying a thin layer of sand or compost over the lawn surface that can fill in any holes in the lawn and improve drainage.

Topdressing adds organic material to the lawn that improves the soil structure and encourages the lawn to grow thicker.

But that’s not all. Topdressing your lawn can also help to flatten out an uneven lawn surface. This video offers a beginner’s guide to topdressing a lawn and the tools and techniques you’ll need to know.

Reseed Bald Patches in Your Lawn to Thicken the Carpet and Prevent Weeds

Sometimes you may notice a thinning patch of grass and wonder what’s going on.

A bare patch in your lawn could be the result of pests or just excessive wear on the particular area. Either way, this is a problem that needs to be dealt with so that weeds don’t take root in that open piece of soil.

The first thing you should do is determine if the exposed patch is due to grubs or insects and thoroughly eradicate them. Our article on how to get rid of armyworms covers many methods to eliminate these pests and the havoc they wreak on lawns.

Once the area is pest-free, you can spread the same grass seed variety as your existing lawn—this is called reseeding or overseeding.

If the patch is smaller, then the established lawn will provide enough cover to allow the seeds to germinate and take root. However, if the bare piece is large you will need to cover the new seed with soil. Our article on lawn care after winter covers reseeding/overseeding tips that will ensure your success.

mowing and mulching the grass with a lawn mower at early fall

What Should I Know About Lawn Care in the Fall?

Think about this for a moment.

All of nature prepares for the longer and colder winter months. Bears eat excessive amounts of food to put on extra weight, and geese fly south. Likewise, plants and grass also need to store up energy and food so that they can reemerge in the spring.

But the bottom line is your lawn can’t get the nutrients and stamina it needs to withstand the temperature drop on its own. It needs your help.

Quite simply, if you want your lawn to survive the cold winter and be lush in summer, then you’d better cultivate it well in the fall.

The tips provided above will ensure you don’t have to spend hours upon hours trying to revive a damaged lawn after winter. A little planning and legwork in the fall season can go a long way to fortify your lawn against plummeting temperatures.

The choice is yours. You can use all 9 fall lawn care tips to ensure a lush velvety lawn in the summer months, or pick the advice you want to implement in your garden. The point is, it’s better to do at least 2 or 3 of these fall lawn maintenance jobs than none at all. You’ll certainly reap the rewards.

Comment below which of the 9 lawn care steps you’ll be completing this fall season. If you do all nine, tell me about your experience and success.

Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.

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