How to Care For Your Lawn in Autumn [8 Steps]

Written by Daniel Woodley. Reviewed by Elizabeth Smith. Published to Lawn Care on 22nd September 2021. Updated: 24th February 2023.

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I’ve always found autumn one of the best times to carry out repairs and maintenance to lawns:

  • The ground is still warm and is perfect for overseeding and turfing.
  • There’s less foot traffic as the garden is used less frequently.
  • Autumn is when grass comes out of its summer dormancy, a time when grass growth is slower due to the heat and dry soil.
  • Weeds are more likely to grow and spread.
  • Certain damaging bugs lay eggs in autumn, and I can now treat them.

I’ve been tending to lawns for years, and below I’ve created a simple 8 step guide to autumn lawn care.

Danny Woodley

Daniel Woodley – DIY Gardening

Step 1: Aerate The Lawn (But Don’t Use Lawn Shoes)

I know from experience that during the summer months, excessive usage and dry conditions can compact the soil under the lawn.

I’ve often seen this cause:

  • Water running off instead of soaking into the ground.
  • Wasted fertiliser.
  • Less sunlight entering the soil.
  • Less oxygen in the soil.
  • Weak root development.

The Royal Horticultural Society recommends that lawn aeration be carried out every few years, but I’ve done it more frequently to lawns that have been subjected to lots of usage and I’ve always had good results.

Aeration isn’t expensive and I’ve found the best way to do this is to use a plugger tool that yanks out tubular plugs of lawn that I then rake up.

See my review of lawn aeration tools here.

Our co-owner, Hannah, published a more detailed guide to this method of lawn aeration and why lawn shoes/spikes don’t work.

Check out Hannah’s guide to lawn aeration and lawn shoes here.

Lawn shoes don't work

Step 2: Scarification

Thatch and dead matter can collect at the base of the grass pile, preventing rainwater and sunlight from entering the soil; I’ve also seen this material promote and encourage moss growth.

I use a good, deep manual rake that pulls out the dead matter and frees up space for the grass to grow.

For more extensive lawns I’ve worked on, I always hired equipment as that’s worked out cheaper and quicker, and most hire shops offer delivery and pickup services.

Step 3: Level The Lawn

I’ve noticed that most lawns will suffer from imperfections after prolonged summer use, and it’s normal to see a few bumps and dips, usually where the foot traffic was.

Years ago I used to think lawns should be levelled with heavy metal rollers, but I’ve since discovered that they’re usually only used on sports turf to harden it.

In my opinion, lawns should be levelled by:

  • Using the back of a wide rake or a special levelling tool to work in new soil (called top dressing), so the dips are gradually filled.
  • I’ve removed bumps by cutting an X into the ground with a shovel and lifting the turf so I can ease out the excess soil.

For very uneven lawns, I’ve found that levelling is best done in stages so the grass isn’t put under too much stress. Spring and autumn are the best times to get started as grass grows better.

Find out more about lawn levelling here.

Recommended Autumn Lawn Care Product:

Proctors Autumn Lawn Feed

Key Points:

  • Low in nitrogen, so your grass won’t put on excessive top growth.
  • Phosphorous to promote all-important root development.
  • Potassium to harden grass leaves in preparation for winter.
  • Iron feed helps to green up the lawn and kill moss.
  • Micro-granules mean 4 times as many granules per square metre for more even coverage and the guaranteed release of the nutrients.

Step 4: Apply Pest Treatments

I’ve seen first-hand the damage that white lawn grubs and leatherjackets can do to a lawn in just a few years as they feed on the roots of the grass.

These pests can only be treated at specific times of the year when they are still in their grub form but before they burrow too deeply into the ground for winter protection.

Both white grubs and leatherjackets can be treated with nematodes in autumn, but there are other methods I’ve used throughout the year.

You can read our guide to getting rid of white lawn grubs here, and we’ve published a guide to killing leatherjackets here.

Step 5: Weed Treatments

Weeds often put on growth this time of year, and I feel that any autumn lawn care plan should include a method of removing or treating weeds before they release seeds or spread.

While I’ve always found it easy to yank out large broad-leaved weeds, I usually put down a chemical treatment for more persistent weeds.

By keeping on top of weeds before they set seed, I’ve found that I’ve actually reduced the number of chemicals I use on my lawn, but very weedy lawns will almost certainly require chemical treatment.

These are the best lawn weed killers I’ve tested and I prefer the concentrated products as they last much longer and there’s less plastic wastage compared to the ready-mixed versions.

Step 6: Autumn Moss Treatments

As summer ends and the temperature drops, moisture fills the air, and with less sunlight to burn it off, I usually see moss flourish in lawns.

While raking and scarification will remove much of the moss in a heavily infested lawn, I’ve never seen it get rid of all of it.

There are two additional ways to get rid of lawn moss, and autumn is the best time of year to approach either task:

  1. I use iron sulphate to blacken and burn off the moss, and I’ve found this the fastest method.
  2. More recently I’ve been using bacteria (see MO Bacter) that gradually consumes the moss without blackening the lawn.

I prefer method two as it doesn’t ruin the appearance of the lawn, and it can be used in conjunction with overseeding.

This page lists the best lawn moss killers and explains the differences between the two options.

Step 7: Put Down a Good Autumn Lawn Feed

No autumn lawn care guide would be complete without a recommended lawn feed.

Nitrogen is found in most lawn products, but unfortunately, it causes grass to grow very fast and leggy, which is fine for the spring and summer.

As winter nears and the grass approaches dormancy, I’ve found that a product that encourages root development and disease resistance instead is more beneficial.

Based on years of testing and trying different products, I recommend Proctors Lawn Feed, and here’s why.

Step 8: Overseed

With warm soil, moist air and less scorching sunlight, I’ve found autumn the best time to lay turf and grass seed.

I’ve learnt that at this time of year, the seeds will:

  • Germinate quickly.
  • Develop strong roots faster.
  • Experience less foot traffic than in summer.
  • Build resistance to the colder weather.
  • Be less likely to suffer from issues related to strong sunlight and heat.

I always overseed any bare patches in the autumn and the spring, and I believe it’s the best way to repair a lawn without it looking patchy.

I usually sprinkle grass seed evenly over the lawn, brush it in and keep it moist for a few weeks, just as I would with a new lawn. At this time of year, the grass grows quickly and soon fills the bare patches, with the lawn looking as good as new well before winter sets in.

When choosing grass seed, I avoid varieties described as “fast germinating” or “speedy seed” as I’ve found that many of these contain annual grass that grows quickly but dies off in winter (more details about Speedy Seed here).

Recommended Autumn Lawn Feed:

Proctors Autumn Lawn Feed

Key Points:

  • This autumn lawn care feed is low in nitrogen, so your grass won’t put on excessive leggy surface growth.
  • Potassium is included; this will harden the grass leaves in preparation for colder weather.
  • Phosphorous to promote all-important root development.
  • Iron helps to green up the lawn and prevent moss from spreading.
  • Micro-granules are preferable to larger granules at this time of year.

3 Things You Shouldn’t Worry About This Autumn 

1) Mushrooms – I used to worry about lawn mushrooms, but there’s nothing to be concerned about in most cases, as mushrooms are a sign of a healthy garden. However, I have come across some corner cases where they were a sign of a rare lawn disease, so check out our guide if you’re unsure about mushrooms growing in your lawn.

2) Nitrogen – From trial and error over the years, I’ve discovered that lawns don’t need a lot of nitrogen at this time of year, and it’s better for the grass to develop more robust and healthier roots rather than top growth. I never put down Miracle-Gro this late in the year for this reason.

3) Cutting the grass low – During the summer, many lawn enthusiasts will cut and strim the lawn a little higher, so it has more protection from wear and tear, as well as drought and excessive sunlight. In autumn, I’ve found that lawns can be cut lower for a finer finish.

Meet The Author: Daniel Woodley

Daniel has over 18 years of experience in the construction, home improvement, and landscape garden industries.

He previously worked as a project manager and has experience in managing teams of tradespeople and landscape gardeners on both small and medium sized projects.

Daniel is also a keen gardener and enjoys growing unusual plants and tending to his lawn.

More About Daniel Woodley.

Daniel Woodley

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