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Fall Lawn Care Tips

Loosen Your Soil

The soil in Northern Virginia is very compact. We have lots of clay and all of the development over the decades has led to a soil that has been tilled and retilled and pressed down into itself over and over again.

Without aeration it is VERY difficult to get good soil to seed contact on your lawn. Soil to seed contact is CRUCIAL for the growth of turfgrass.

During a long hot summer like we just experienced the soil gets even more compacted as the water in the soil dries out.

Aeration breaks up the soil and prevents a thick layer of roots, stems, and debris from forming that blocks sunlight, oxygen, water, and nutrients from reaching the soil and the roots of your grass.

At MowCow, we use a heavy-duty hydraulic aerator that is not only capable of breaking through a heavy layer of roots, stems, and debris, it punctures even the hardest, most compacted Northern Virginia soil at a deeper depth than an ordinary aerator to ensure greater penetration of water into the soil and maximum soil to seed contact.


Keep Mowing, But At The Right Height

Just because the weather is getting cooler doesn’t mean it’s time to leave the mower in the garage for the rest of the year.

Your lawn will continue to grow up to the first hard frost of the year.

To keep it at the ideal height it will still need to be mowed regularly. If it gets too long it will mat down and become vulnerable to fungal infections. If you cut it too short that will stress your lawn by shorting root depth.

Yup, root depth is related to cutting height. And if your roots aren’t strong enough then your lawn won’t be able to withstand a cold, dry winter.

As an added benefit, mowing can chop up fallen leaves in mulch. This provides nutrients to your lawn!


Continue Watering

Homeowners tend to let up n the watering when the weather gets cooler in the fall, but that can be a mistake. Especially, after a long, hot, and dry summer like we just had.

More dew and less evaporation will not necessarily be enough to keep your grass and its roots well hydrated in the winter.

A simple way to tell if your lawn is getting enough water is to use a rain gauge. If your lawn isn’t getting at least an inch of water a week then keep the sprinklers or irrigation system going through the fall.

Once the weather starts getting close to freezing then you’ll want to disconnect all of your outdoor hoses and flush your irrigation system to avoid frozen pipes and spigots until the spring.


Loosen The Soil

Regular aeration is key to developing a think and healthy root system for your grass. In the Northern Virginia area especially, the earth can become very compact, leaving little to no room for root growth. By breaking up the ground with aeration we create room for roots to grow and just as importantly we create great soil to seed contact, the key to new grass growth.

Compacted soil blocks water, oxygen, and nutrients from reaching the soil. Aeration corrects that issue by punching holes through the soil and thatch and pulling out plugs of soil.

If you can be sure to use a heavy, duty hydraulic aerator to penetrate deeper into the ground. This will break up the soil more and allow for greater growth.


Add Fertilizer

As we already mentioned, proper hydration is key for your grass and its roots to survive the winter. Just as important is proper nutrition.

A shot of fertilizer is key to helping your grass grow strong enough to handle a harsh winter and protect the roots from freezing and dying in cold temperatures.

A good fertilizer provides nitrogen which combined with the chlorophyll the grass produces creates plant sugars that feed the grass and its roots. the feed and strengthen your turfgrass. Those sugars and the chlorophyll the grass produces when it has enough nitrogen

Applying fertilizer with the proper ratio of nutrients helps with growth, disease protection, drought tolerance, and cold resistance.

A soil test can tell you what nutrients your soil is lacking and what you need to add to get the best results.


Spread Seed

One of the best ways to keep your lawn from getting overtaken by weeds is to have thick and dense grass. Weeds will take over thin spots and bare spots quickly. Mother nature LOVES to keep the ground covered.

If weeds get a foothold then they will quickly spread. Fall is a great time to seed because the ground is still warm enough for the seed to grow and the roots to penetrate.

Seeding should be combined with aeration to ensure the seed gets deep into the soil to ensure proper soil to seed contact and to give your seed the best chance to grow.


Keep To A Schedule

The previous six tips will all help keep your lawn healthy through the winter, but to maximize their benefits be sure to follow a schedule.

For instance, you don’t want to overseed too late or the seed will not have time to take root and grow before winter sets in. Fertilize too early and grass will grow to soon and won’t survive the winter. Fertilize too late and the grass won’t be able to absorb the proper nutrients.


Remove the leaves

Colorful autumn leaves look great on the trees and they may look great for a while on your lawn. Your kids and pets will have a blast playing with them. Leaving some leaves on your lawn can be helpful but leaving too many leaves on your lawn can kill your grass.

A thick layer of leaves block the sunlight from reaching your lawn and traps moisture that can be destructive.

When leaves are falling, blow or rake them away as often as you can. After the leaves have fallen and the trees are bare keep raking the leaves and checking the corners of your yard, beds, and shrubbery to keep them clear as well.


Get a Soil Test

Managing your lawn’s soil pH, nutrition, mineral and chemical balance is incredibly important for getting the best results for your lawn. Soil testing your lawn allows you to determine what treatments your lawn needs so you can make those adjustments over the fall.

By making the necessary soil adjustments in the fall, your amendments have several extra months to take effect and get your soil ready for the spring.

Treatments that MowCow applies to our customers’ yards start working to improve the balance of the soil immediately to encourage healthy lawns in the spring.


Repair Bare Spots

Bare spots in lawns are pretty common after the heat and drought stress of the summer. Fall is the perfect time to fix those bare spots and fill them in prior to spring.

The best way to repair a bare spot is to aerate the bare spot, apply nutrition recommended by a soil test, and seed the area.

If you aren’t able to aerate the area, be sure to at least hand seed the area and water it regularly.



Dead grass, leaves, debris, and other organic matter that builds up between your grass and your soil is called thatch. A thin layer of thatch is helpful to your lawn, but when the thatch layer builds up and becomes thick it limits the water and nutrients that reach your soil and can encourage disease.

Dethatching can be as simple as using a rake to pull the thatch material out from the grass or you can use a piece of power equipment such as a dethatcher or vertical mower. Power equipment like this cut into the thatch layer and pull it up to be removed.


Get Your Weeds Under Control

Weeds don’t stop growing when the summer ends. In the early fall, weeds are still growing strong. Use the proper weed control to kill the weeds in your lawn without hurting any seed that you might be laying down.

The wrong weed control will kill your seed before it takes root. If you have particularly tough weeds treat them with targeted spot treatments.


Check The Gutters

Clogged gutters can be a big problem in the winter. As rains and moisture increase in the fall and winter if your gutters are clogged it can cause your water to flow to areas where you don’t want it to flow and can even damage the interior of your home or the foundation with water flowing to the wrong areas.

If you aren’t confident in your ability to clear your gutters yourself hire a professional who can do the job safely.


Put Away Your Lawn Furniture

Colder weather means less time outdoors. Now is a good time to take your lawn furniture inside. Take the cushions of your outdoor furniture and stow them inside. It’s also a good idea to store your grill inside as well.


Clean Your Tools and Equipment

You won’t be using your lawn care equipment much in the winter so the end of fall is a great time to clean and maintain your tools so they’ll be ready to go in the spring. The last thing you want is for any debris or moisture to damage your tools and equipment over the winter.

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Lawn Care Fairfax, VA