It’s been a long and hot summer, and now it’s time to prepare your lawn for the fall. The lawn looks dull and you wonder what you could have done to make it healthier. It may come as a surprise, but fall is the best time to improve the quality of soil in your lawn. A little work in the fall, and you can save a lot of time and energy during the winter and spring. Let’s find out how you can prepare your lawns for cold weather the healthy way.
Begin with a soil test
The summer days can make soil worn out and dry, but it’s not possible to know the extent of the damage without a soil test. Take a soil sample and get it tested with your lawn care specialist. The results will help you determine the best fertilizers to use for improving the soil. Depending on soil quality, you can understand what nutrients are missing and how to increase the pH level.
Is ‘till’ a big deal?
Wet or damp soil during spring makes spading tough. Tilling in wet soil can result in clods, which are difficult to break. But tilling or spading in fall allows the soil to naturally break into particles. In the different phases of winter, freezing and thawing leaves a nice texture on the lawns. This way, you can have that crumbly fall garden soil which is perfect for spring planting.
Fall is also a good time to add potassium and phosphorus to the soil. Adding these will enrich the ground and adjust the pH level in your soil. Fall is the best time to add these nutrients so that they blend in and add to the texture. Soil preparation is the foundation for healthy plants, so don’t ignore it!
Check soil pH level
A plant can grow in soil with a pH level between 5.5 and 7.0. An increase from 5.5 to 6.8 can ensure better growth of plants. Any inconsistency in soil pH levels can lead to problems like iron deficiency in plants. Adding lime to acidic soils will increase pH levels. If you notice a magnesium deficiency, tune up your fall garden soil with dolomitic limestone. It’ll take some time for the liming materials to impact the soil, so apply them well ahead of planting time.
You can determine the amount of lime needed in your fall garden by testing the existing pH level and soil texture. To raise it by 1 point, you can add about 4 pounds of ground limestone to every 100 square feet for sandy soils. The amount will be 10 pounds for clay soil and 7-8 pounds for loamy soils.
Start the organic diet
The fresh blooms in the spring are a beautiful sight. However, we often miss the underground activities taking place when the soil comes to life in the spring. All the organisms in the soil come into existence in the spring, and it’s important to start your soil building exercises early, preferably in the fall.
Look around and you will notice a lot of organic fertilizers like garden debris, fallen leaves, and even kitchen scraps which can be used in lawns. Add organic matter in the top 2 inches of soil and cover with mulch. This is the time to add potassium, phosphorus, lime, and concentrated manures. By spring they’ll break down and prepare the ground for good growth.
A nod to nitrogen
Nitrogen deserves special attention among all the nutrients used to improve fall garden soil. Even after years of soil building, nitrogen often begins depleting and needs to be restored from time to time. Nitrogen not only helps in plant growth, but it also feeds soil organisms.
Before the arrival of spring, your lawn should have enough nitrogen for the new season. We recommend that you include bone meal in your fall lawn care schedule since it’s rich in concentrated nitrogen. On the other hand, fall legume can transfer nitrogen to the soil from the atmosphere. Other elements that are rich in nitrogen include green grass clippings or manure.
‘Cover’ lawns with cover crops
Did you know one of the best sources of nutrients for your soil is living plants? Popularly known as cover crops, they are helpful in preventing soil erosion. Crops such as annual ryegrass, winter wheat or winter rye are normally seeded during the fall, ideally 6 weeks before the first frost.
Clean your old plants, till the soil, and plant the cover crops. Allow them to grow, till during early spring, and then till it underground. There should be a gap of few weeks between tilling and planting. This will give the cover crop time to break and add essential nutrients to the soil.
Enjoy the crisp autumn weather while getting your lawn ready for the spring. Take a deep breath and you simply can’t miss the smell of freshly turned soil!