Shaun Moser, Conservation Garden Park
Now is an excellent time to perform some maintenance that will improve the quality and health of the lawn now and into spring. Each of these tasks is easy to do and this beautiful weather makes it easy to get in the yard.
The mowing season is winding down for the year, which provides a pleasant break from this weekly task. Once the lawn is slowing down and not growing as vigorously, give it a nice, short, cut. We know this flies in the face of the advice we typically give to mow high! Most of the spring/ summer the recommended mowing height is around 3 1/2 inches but in the fall, it is best to cut it shorter at just 1 1/2 inches. This shorter cut helps to prevent any diseases that might crop up over the winter.
Your lawn needs nutrients to grow and fall is a great time to feed it to prepare it for next year. On the front of fertilizer bags are three numbers, generally listed something like this: 12-6-8, which indicate the amount of nitrogen (n), phosporous (p), and potassium (k) in the bag of fertilizer. The first number always represents nitrogen, the second Phosphorous, and the third potassium. The main nutrient your lawn needs is nitrogen, so choose a fertilizer that’s straight nitrogen, like ammonium sulfate (21-0-0). While you can apply it any time of year, doing so in the fall will make your grass strong and ready for spring.
It is best to aerate your lawn at least once a year. If you haven’t done it yet, fall is a great time to do it. Lawn roots need access to water and air to grow, and if the soil is compacted it will have a hard time getting either of those. Core aeration is the process of pulling 3″ to 4” plugs of soil out of the ground with a machine to loosen things up so the roots can get what they need. Aerators can be rented from many different places or you can hire a lawn care company to do it for you.
Fall is the end of the watering season in Utah. Most of the time you can stop watering around Columbus Day, or the middle of October. Lawns and plants in general not only use very little water this time of year, they also lose much less to evapotranspiration, so you can really dial down how much you water them. Any drought stress the lawn experiences during October will actually make the roots grow deeper, making it stronger in coming years.
To learn more about landscaping in Utah, visit the Conservation Garden Park in person (now in full fall color) or online. ConservationGardenPark.org