Autumn Lawncare in the South

R. L. Rhodes
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Seeding with a hand seeder.

Warm-season grasses, like Bermudagrass and zoysia, thrive in the scorching heat of summer, but go dormant as average temperatures drop below 70. That means you can expect growth is to taper off as autumn sets in, but even in southern states, the season’s not quite over. Homeowners who want to maintain a vibrant lawn even through the cooler months have options at their disposal.

Use these guidelines to set your lawn agenda for autumn. Not growing warm-season grasses in your yard? Check out our article on autumn lawncare for the North instead.

Overseeding

Because warm-season grasses lose vibrancy during cooler months, overseeding with a cool-season grass, like Kentucky bluegrass, is a popular method for maintaining a green lawn even down the long slope to winter. Start out by mowing to a leaf length of about 1in to give new seeds a fighting chance.┬áIf the soil is densely compacted, use a power rake or core aerator to break up the thatch and sod. A motorized or hand-operated seeder can help you distribute the seed evenly. Be sure to water immediately after overseeding, and regularly thereafter to help stimulate growth. Overseeded grass will require close care and attention during those months when the growth of your warm-season grass slows to a crawl, but in many areas of the South, it’s the best option for maintaining a green lawn through autumn.

Fertilizing

Promoting leaf growth into late autumn can make those grasses more susceptible to winter damage and diseases, so you’ll want to tread carefully here. An early September application of fertilizer, like Scotts WinterGuard, just as your grass is settling down for the year, can build up reserve nutrients that will your grass weather the cold while it bides its time for spring, but most experts recommend curtailing fertilizer applications thereafter. The exceptions, of course, are lawns overseeded with cool-season grasses, which can benefit from additional fertilizer applied in mid to late autumn.

Leaves

The changing colors of leaves may be beautiful, but can pose hazards if allowed to accumulate in your yard. In addition to blocking the sunlight your grass needs for photosynthesis, drifts of fallen leaves can also provide the sort of dark, damp habitat where turf diseases incubate and grass pests lay eggs. For a light scattering of leaves, you can mulch them directly into your lawn by mowing them into bits too small to catch with a rake. For a heavier accumulation of leaves, you’ll need to break out the rake. While you’re at it, get some use out of what you’ve gathered with these ideas for using collected leaves.

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