The dog days of summer are upon us, which means hot and humid weather will be the norm until the first autumn breeze sets in. As you and your family are soaking up the last few weeks of summer vacation, doing some late summer lawn care will keep your yard looking lovely until winter.

It should be noted that this late summer lawn care guide is specifically for cool season grasses, which are common in Iowa and other areas of the upper Midwest. If you live in a hotter region, the variety of grasses in your yard are likely warm season grasses and might require different solutions.

If your lawn is in rough shape and you’re not sure where your summer lawn care routine went wrong, All American Turf Beauty can help! We offer a wide variety of lawn care services for homeowners across the state of Iowa, including core aeration, fertilization, lawn maintenance, and irrigation.

Whether you choose to DIY or work with a professional lawn care service, here are the most important things to keep in mind for late summer lawn care.

Lower your mower

late summer lawn care mowing

It’s ok to lower the cutting height of your mower when it is actively growing in the fall– although it’s not absolutely necessary.

At the beginning of summer, it’s recommended to raise your mower to keep your grass about 3” to 3.5” tall. Once September sets in, you can reduce the height to 2.5” to 3” since the cooler temperatures will lead to improved growth for cool season grasses. 

Remember to continue mowing your lawn until it stops growing, which should occur in late October or early November.

Leave your grass clippings

Instead of collecting your grass clippings after mowing your lawn, leave the clippings behind. The nutrients from the grass clippings are actually beneficial for the soil and the health of your lawn. As the clippings break down, the nutrients are released into the soil and can be reabsorbed by the grass.

However, once leaves start to fall, make it a priority to rake your yard frequently. Allowing leaves to pile up on the grass can suffocate your lawn and lead to a patchy, sparse yard in the springtime.

Aerate your lawn

In Iowa, early September is the best time to aerate your lawn. Aeration involves removing small plugs of soil from your yard to reduce soil compaction, improve irrigation, and promote better nutrient movement throughout the soil.

Aeration is done using a core aerator, which pulls up and removes plugs of soil about 3” long. Core aerators can be rented from most hardware stores, or you can have a professional lawn services company aerate your lawn for you.

For best results, it’s recommended to aerate your lawn when the soil is moist. Trying to use a core aerator when the soil is too wet can cause the tool to get jammed, whereas a dry lawn can make it more difficult to remove the full length of each soil plug.

After aeration, use a drag mat or rake to break up the soil cores across your lawn.

Take care of weeds

Even in the late summer, it’s important to immediately spot-treat any weeds you notice to prevent them from taking over your lawn before the first snowfall. You can choose to pull up weeds by hand or use an herbicide — whichever works best for you.

Overseed your lawn

The few weeks between late summer and early fall mark the best time in Iowa to overseed your lawn if it’s patchy or thin. Cool season grasses grow rapidly during the dog days of summer, and the cooler temperatures at night help to promote quick plant growth. In addition, several varieties of weeds tend to die off in the cooler weather, so there will be less competition from invasive plants for your new grass seedlings.

Before overseeding, you should mow your lawn to just 2” to 2.5” tall. You want to ensure that the new grass seeds will be able to access the soil easily without getting stuck in the turf canopy.

Once you’ve thoroughly covered your lawn in new grass seed, frequently and lightly water your yard to keep the upper inch of soil moist. After 2 to 3 weeks, your new grass seedlings should be about 1” tall if the soil has been kept consistently moist. At this point, you can reduce waterings and start watering more deeply.

Apply fertilizer

Cool season grass varieties should be fertilized about 6 weeks before the estimated date of the first frost. For most low-maintenance lawns in Iowa, fertilizer can be highly effective when applied in mid-October to early November. Applying fertilizer before winter will help your lawn look full, healthy, and green come springtime.

Call in the pros

If your lawn is looking a little worse for wear after the hot summer, it might be worth it to get a professional opinion. All American Turf Beauty offers tailored lawn care programs to get your lawn in top shape and help you maintain a beautiful, healthy yard all year long. Connect with a lawn care professional today to learn more about our affordable and customizable services!