Autumn Lawn Care Made Easy [8 Steps]
Autumn is 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 can now be treated.
If you’re new to autumn lawn care, follow these 8 simple steps:
Daniel Woodley – DIY Gardening
Step 1: Aerate The Lawn (But Don’t Use Lawn Shoes)
During the summer months, excessive usage and dry conditions can compact the soil under the lawn.
This can result in:
- 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 it can be done more frequently if the lawn is part of a busy household and is subjected to lots of usage.
Aeration isn’t expensive and involves pulling out plugs of lawn to create small holes.
Our co-owner, Hannah, published a more detailed guide to lawn aeration and why lawn shoes/spikes don’t work.
Step 2: Scarification
Thatch and dead matter can collect at the base of the grass pile, where it prevents rainwater and sunlight from entering the soil, it also promotes moss growth.
A good, deep manual rake will pull out the dead matter and free up space for the grass to grow.
For more extensive lawns, electric or petrol tools can be purchased or hired as they make light work of scarification.
Step 3: Level The Lawn
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.
I used to think lawns should be levelled with heavy metal rollers, but I’ve discovered that they’re usually only used on sports turf to harden it.
Lawns can 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.
- Bumps can be evened out by cutting an X into the ground with a shovel and lifting the turf so excess soil can be scraped out.
Lawn levelling is often done in stages so the grass isn’t put under too much stress and spring and autumn are the best times to get started.
- 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
White lawn grubs and leatherjackets can destroy 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 you can use throughout the year.
Step 5: Weed Treatments
Weeds often put on growth this time of year, and any autumn lawn care plan should include a method of removing or treating weeds before they release seeds or spread.
While large broad-leaved weeds can be pulled out manually, a chemical treatment may be required for more persistent weeds.
By keeping on top of weeds, I’ve found that I’ve 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, and I prefer the concentrated products as they last much longer and there’s less plastic wastage than 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, moss can flourish.
While raking and scarification will remove much of the moss in a heavily infested lawn, it will never 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:
- Use iron sulphate to blacken and burn off the moss; this is the fastest method.
- Use a product that contains a specific bacteria that will gradually consume the moss without blackening the lawn.
I prefer method 2 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 difference between them.
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 and causes grass to grow very fast and leggy, which is perfect for the spring and summer.
As winter nears and the grass approaches dormancy, a product that encourages root development and disease resistance instead is more beneficial.
I recommend Proctors Lawn Feed, and here’s why.
Step 8: Overseed
With warm soil, moist air and less scorching sunlight, autumn is the best time to lay turf and grass seed.
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.
Overseeding is the best way to repair a lawn without it looking patchy.
Sprinkle grass seed evenly over the lawn, brush in and keep moist for a few weeks, just as you would a new lawn. The grass will soon fill the bare patches, and the lawn will look as good as new well before winter sets in.
When choosing grass seed, avoid varieties described as “fast germinating” or “speedy seed” as many of these contain annual grass that grows quickly but dies off in winter (more details about Speedy Seed here).
- 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 – there’s nothing to worry about in most cases, as lawn mushrooms are a sign of a healthy garden. However, there are a few exceptions, so check out our guide if you’re worried about mushrooms growing in your lawn.
2) Nitrogen – 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.
3) Cutting the grass low – during the summer, many lawn enthusiasts will cut the lawn a little higher, so it has more protection from wear and tear, as well as drought and excessive sunlight. In autumn, lawns can be cut lower for a finer finish.