Autumn is an important time for lawns. The days are getting shorter and cooler, but there is still plenty of warmth in the soil which means the lawn is still actively growing. However, this active growth will start to slow throughout the season.
The focus of autumn is to get the best possible condition to prepare the lawn for dormancy and winter. This means attacking issues such as weeds and pests early, maintaining fertilising and regularly mowing as needed. While the mowing frequency will decrease throughout the season, growing a bit longer will equip the lawn to better deal with photosynthesis and weed suppression.
A healthy lawn means it'll handle dormancy far better and bounce back quicker when spring comes around! Check out our 10 Tips For A Great Autumn Lawn!
Early season you will still need to regularly mow, at least once a week. The mowing frequency will decrease during the season and by season end you may only need to mow once a fortnight. Mow a bit taller to aid better photosynthesis with the less available sunlight. Growing a bit taller will also aid in weed management as the sunlight will be blocked by the thick and taller canopy. Don’t mow more than a third of the grass height in a single mow and don’t let it get too long between mows.
You can start to reduce your watering as the season gets cooler. Early on in the season, you could be doing 2 waters a week and by the end of the season, you could be watering once every 7 – 10 days. Watering deeply in the early morning will avoid possible fungal issues and keep evaporation to a minimum. Watering deeply and infrequently will train the roots to go deeper into the soil and use water more efficiently.
Your lawn needs air just as much as water and nutrients. If the soil gets too compact, the roots will struggle to get air, water and nutrients stopping the lawn growing well. Early in the season while there is still active growth you can aerate with a corer, topdress and promote a repair of growth back into the area. As the season continues, growth/self-repair will slow/stop so the best aerating option is a smaller diameter solid tine that doesn’t pull a core out. The cheapest way is using a pitchfork. This will allow air to get to the root zone. If the soil is really compact, leverage the pitchfork to open up and loosen the soil a bit. A pitchfork aerate once a month is the go.
Support the early season active growth with fertilising. Your entry point to fertilising is fertilising once at the start of the season with a slow-release fertiliser. As autumn gets cooler, the lawn nutrient needs will change and nitrogen needs will decrease. More balanced fertilisers that assist root development are required. Launch+ with kelp and phosphorous is ideal for this.
You have the choice to keep it simple with a slow-release fertiliser once in the season or more detailed programs which will lead the ultimate result.
We’ll be upfront and say we're not a fan of oversowing cool season grass types in warm season lawns. We're not saying it is not for you, the results can be stunning, however, realise what you are getting yourself into. You will need more water, maintenance and care throughout the cooler season, it requires more fertiliser and it tends to open up more opportunities for weeds and other issues if done badly. Don’t get us wrong, it works, but it is more work. Sporting ovals are oversown with cool season grasses so the oval doesn’t become a mud pie with the game traffic, but you have a home lawn. Does your lifestyle cope with the extra work, water and fertiliser to maintain it? Does your situation (traffic/shade/climate) really require an oversow?
Reduction of pet and traffic management is necessary as growth starts to slow. High traffic areas will not repair as quickly as it did during the growing season. While the solutions will be individual in the case, bare areas will need to be managed otherwise they will be easy areas for weed germination, which lead to more issues.
It is all about strategy. Fencing problem areas earlier in the season and repairing the area, a fenced dog only area, extra walks and activity for pets, telling the kids to keep off the lawn, having a good chat to your postie if that is the problem. The situation is individual, as is the solution.
Weeds. Hate them. Short story is you don’t want them and prevention is better than cure.
Weed management is aided by growing a bit longer this season to stop sunlight getting to the weeds for germination. Using a pre-emergent herbicide early in autumn will also stop weeds before they germinate. Apply in the early autumn and water in to get the treatment where the seeds are sitting for germination. Again, there are many pre-emergent herbicides on the market. It is important to use a treatment that is suitable for your lawn type and be sure your lawn has good root development as some of these treatments have root clipping properties. Always read the label and follow the instructions.
Autumn can be an active time for lawn pests! Army worm can have a field day with lawns and there are also many other pests. Lawn pests can either be root feeding or surface-dwelling and eating the leaves. Application of suitable insecticide is necessary. Without treating for pests you are fighting a losing battle. Lawn insecticides can be found at garden centres and hardware shops, from spray on to granular applications that need to be watered in. Most of the domestic products work well at a reasonable price.
Later in the season, and depending on your location, frosts may become an issue. A run of frosts can injure a lawn and make it brown. Combat frosts with a quick 5-minute early morning water to melt the ice, it will limit the damage.
Near the end of autumn, your lawn care practices will reduce and you’ll have some time to think about next spring and growing season. Look to performing maintenance of your equipment, research and plan your next equipment purchases. There’s nothing more annoying than hitting next growing season with dud equipment or finding there is a wait on what you need to purchase. Beat the maintenance and equipment rush of late winter and early spring by getting to these tasks late autumn. Bushranger dealer can help you sort your needs.
Think carefully and be honest with yourself before taking the plunge. For us, get warm season lawn in great condition ready for dormancy, keep a keen eye on the bad guys (weeds/pest/disease) and accept the compromise that while the lawn is sleeping it will not look as good as summer. Following the tips above will ensure the warm season lawn looks very good for the cooler season and dormancy. Enjoy the time off to attend to life and maintaining your equipment is my choice. Your situation and choice may be different.