Fall Lawn Care: Tips & Best Practices

How to Maintain Your Lawn in the Fall

As the leaves turn and the temperatures fall, your lawn’s needs change. Our comprehensive fall lawn care guide will take you through every step you should take during the autumn. season.

Cool-Season vs Warm-Season Grass

Fall lawn care varies by the type of lawn you have. If yours is a warm-season lawn, the grass will grow slowly, requiring little mowing and increased weed control. Cool-season grass lawns, however, produce robust growth during fall, making the cooler temps an ideal time for fertilization and overseeding.

How can you tell what type of lawn you have? You can tell by its growth patterns.

Cool Season Grass

Cool-season grasses are usually planted in northern gardens where snowfall is plentiful. They grow fastest in spring and fall, slowing dramatically in the summer. If the summer is dry, they will even go dormant and completely brown, then green up again with fall rainfall or irrigation.

Popular cool season grasses include:

  • Kentucky Bluegrass
  • Fescue
  • Perennial ryegrass
  • Bentgrass

Warm Season Grass

Warm-season grasses flourish in the south. They grow slowly in the spring, far faster in the summer, slow dramatically in the fall, and nearly stop in the winter.

Popular warm-season grasses include:

  • Zoysia
  • St. Augustine
  • Bermuda
  • Bahiagrass

Once you recognize the type of grass you have, you can proceed with our fall lawn care guide.

Preparing Your Lawn for Fall

Building up the health of your lawn’s roots is essential to ensuring it is ready for the cold months ahead.

Sharpen Your Mower Blades

Using a sharp mower blade is essential to getting a clean cut and protecting your lawn’s health. A dull blade makes ragged tears, stressing the lawn and leaving the grass blade ends open to grass fungus and pests.

Mow Tall

As long as your grass is actively growing, mow tall, leaving your grass about four inches tall. Taller grass develops thicker, deeper, more robust roots and provides more surface leaf area for photosynthesis. As your grass slows its growth and you prepare for your last mowing of the season, the final cut should be 2 to 2.5 inches.

Mow Often

Cool-season grass grows fast during the fall and should be mown frequently. As leaves start to fall, they can cause uneven cutting when too many are allowed to accumulate on the lawn before mowing. Increasing your mowing frequency during this season will help prevent this.

Don’t Bag

Grass clippings are one of the easiest ways to provide nutrients to your lawn. They break down quickly and return nutrients to the soil. Make sure the grass is dry, as wet grass clumps together and suffocates the grass growing beneath it.

Check out our Mowing Recommendations for a Healthy Lawn.

Watering Your Lawn

Next up in our fall lawn care guide is watering. Don’t assume that nature will take care of it for you. Your lawn needs water to thrive and survive. Watering too little or too much can harm your lawn. Your Lawn Pride® experts are here to help you find that balance.

When Should I Water My Lawn in the Fall?

The best time to water your lawn is in the early morning hours. Too much water sitting on the lawn overnight can lead to turf disease. Plan to water cool-season grasses twice a week unless you get adequate rainfall. Warm-season grasses need less water in the fall as they slow their growth and prepare to slip into dormancy for the winter. Water deeply, just less frequently.

Watering Techniques for Cooler Months

If you are a homeowner with an in-ground irrigation system, watering is as easy as programming your system correctly. However, not all homeowners have it that easy. Your cool-season lawn needs 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, while warm-season lawns can do with 20% less water each week. Natural rain will do the trick, but it’s important to monitor your grass and water when there is no rain. This is the equivalent of watering for thirty to forty-five minutes twice a week.

Watering Recommendations for a Healthy Lawn.

Managing Leaves & Debris

Never let fallen leaves remain on your lawn. It suffocates the grass, blocks photosynthesis, and promotes fungus and mold. Raking or mulching leaves is an essential fall lawn care tip.

Leaves + Lawn Health

In the fall, nature sends loads of excellent (and free!) fertilizer for your lawn in the form of falling leaves. Don’t strain your back and deprive your lawn of vital nutrients. Instead, mulch the leaves. Your lawn will thank you. Most mowers can mulch the leaves for you. Mulching cuts the leaves into tiny pieces so they can quickly break down into the soil.

Weeds and Pests Control in the Fall

Weed and pest control are critical parts of your fall lawn care plan. Just as you must prepare your lawn for the coming winter, weeds and pests are also preparing for the cold season. With their decreased growth rate, warm-season grasses are more prone to pest and weed damage in fall than cool-season grasses.

Identifying and Managing Hard-to-Control Weeds

Fall is the time to tackle stubborn weeds like wild violets and ground ivy (a.k.a. creeping Charlie) in cool-season lawns. In warm-season lawns, perennial weeds like dandelions, clover, and dallisgrass become more prominent as the lawn’s growth rate tapers off. While these weeds can be weakened with broadleaf weed control throughout the year, they are most effectively controlled in the fall.

Learn more about common weeds

Grub Prevention and Treatment

Warm- and cool-season grasses unite in this fall lawn care tip — preventing and treating grubs. Fall is the time of year when grub damage can start to appear in lawns. Here are a few ways to tell if grubs are damaging your lawn.

Dead Grass

Turf may die for many reasons, and having grubs in your lawn is a primary culprit. Grub damage often appears as irregular brown patches in your grass. If these brown patches don’t green up despite watering or rain, you likely have grubs. These brown grub patches start showing up during the summer or early fall.

The Carpet-Roll

The most definitive way of diagnosing grubs is the carpet-roll method. If you suspect you have a grub infestation, grasp some of the browned grass and give it a gentle tug. If the grass comes up in one piece, then your issue is grubs. Grubs are below-ground insects that consume grassroots only, leaving the grass leaves, stems, and thatch intact. This test makes it relatively simple to diagnose once the damage has been done. Learn more about grub damage.

Effective Grub Control Measures

For natural grub control, there are a few effective options:

  • Beneficial Nematodes: Apply these microscopic worms to the grass, and they will find their way to the soil. There, they infect and kill grubs. Nematodes are most effective when applied in late summer to early fall, targeting young grubs. Ensure the soil is moist during the application and remains well-watered for several weeks afterward to support nematode activity.
  • Milky Spore Disease (Bacillus popilliae): This naturally occurring bacterium specifically targets Japanese beetle grubs. It's a long-term control method that takes a few years to become fully effective but can provide control for many years once established.
  • Diatomaceous Earth (DE): Using food-grade DE, sprinkle the white powder evenly over dry brown or yellow grass where grub activity occurs. DE only works when it is dry and in direct contact with the grubs, dehydrating them. Reapply after rain or irrigation.

For effective grub control, contact Lawn Pride today.

Fall Lawn Fungus and Diseases

The next issue for our fall lawn care guide is protecting your grass from fungus and disease.

Common Fall Lawn Funguses and How to Prevent Them

Fall weather can bring turf diseases such as Red Thread and Dollar Spot to your lawn. These diseases can develop at any time of the year but are most common in the spring and fall when temperatures are cooler and rainfall is plentiful. Luckily, these types of lawn diseases can typically be treated with a simple nitrogen-rich fertilizer. However, in severe cases, a fungicide may be needed.

The Importance of Fall Aerating and Seeding

Aeration and overseeding are essential steps for maintaining a beautiful and healthy lawn. However, they factor into fall lawn care only for cool-season grass lawns.

Periodic lawn aeration is critical for your lawn’s health. The process removes many small plugs made up of soil, roots, thatch, and grass from throughout your lawn. Aeration opens up the root zone, promoting new and healthier root growth. Overseeding the lawn is best done immediately following aeration, as it puts the new grass seeds in direct contact with the soil.

Why Aerate Your Lawn in the Fall

Fall is the best time to aerate cool-season grass lawns, while spring is best for warm-season lawns. This timing ensures your grass is actively growing when the grass plugs are removed, limiting the stress on your lawn and ensuring it can recover quickly.

Choosing the Right Seed

Periodically overseeding your lawn keeps it lush and healthy. Whether fixing just a few bare spots or reseeding the entire lawn, choosing the right seed is critical. Choose a quality seed blend appropriate for your climate and your lawn’s makeup and sun exposure. Overseeding in the fall is ideal for cool-season grasses. Wait until late spring to reseed warm-climate lawns.

Lawn Maintenance Tips for A Healthy Lawn

Enhance Your Lawn with Professional Care

If our fall lawn care guide feels like too much to keep up with, we understand. Your local Lawn Pride delivers comprehensive and customized lawn care services to ensure the health and beauty of your lawn throughout the year.

You can trust the experts at your local Lawn Pride to keep your lawn looking its best because we’re invested in the beauty of your grass! We back this up with the Neighborly Done Right Promise™, which means your satisfaction is our highest priority.

Get started with your free estimate today!

Fall Lawn Care FAQs

Have more questions about fall lawn care? The lawn care experts at Lawn Pride have answers to some of the most asked questions about fall lawn care.

Do I have to pick up my leaves before I put down my next application?

Not at all. Instead, please mow right over any fallen leaves. Our fertilizer will fall through the leaves like sugar on cornflakes. We recommend maintaining a regular mowing schedule during the fall to mulch the leaves into small pieces and allow them to filter into the turf. Leaves are a good source of nutrition for your lawn and help improve the soil. Not to mention, mulching leaves with a mower is much easier than raking and blowing.

I had my yard seeded, but the grass hasn’t come up yet, and the ground will freeze soon. Did I waste my money?

A single frost doesn’t mean that soil conditions will not continue to be favorable for proper seed germination. Seeds can lay dormant in the soil for a long time, waiting for the right conditions to begin their germination and maturing process. Once conditions are right, the seed will grow. The same holds true for grass seeds you introduce late in the season! When spring arrives, you’ll get continued germination from the seed planted the previous fall. We recommend waiting until late April or even early May in Central Indiana, to evaluate the effectiveness of a late fall seeding.