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Beginner's guide to fall lawn care

Fall lawn care for beginners

It’s easy to remember to water and care for your lawn in the warmer spring and summer months. The results of a dehydrated and undernourished lawn are more visible in the heat. But fall is also a critical time for lawn care. Neglecting your lawn in the autumn months can do a lot of damage, even if the grass is already starting to become dormant for the winter months ahead.

To make sure you have a fully flourishing lawn come spring, there are several techniques you can utilize to care for your lawn during the fall.

Why is fall lawn care important?

During the winter months, your grass responds to the drop in temperature and goes dormant, meaning it stops growing. Preparing your lawn in the fall means it can retain as many nutrients as possible. That way, when the temperature warms up in spring and your grass begins to grow again, it is fully equipped to flourish.

Fall lawn care tips

Fall is the perfect time to help establish new grass and bolster your existing lawn.

Test the soil pH level

Test the pH and nutrition levels in the soil. By making the necessary adjustments in fall, your grass has time to absorb the nutrients it needs and remain healthy and strong during the winter months.

Fertilize the lawn

The fall frost is what causes cool-season grass to progress into dormancy. You should fertilize the lawn around six weeks before you’re expecting the first frost of the season.

Dethatch the grass

Thatch refers to any organic material (leaf debris, loose grass blades, etc.) that build up between your soil and your growing grass. If it becomes more than 1/2 inch high, it can prevent water and nutrients from reaching the soil and nourishing your grass. Use a garden rake or power dethatcher to remove excess thatch during the fall.

Aerate the soil

When your soil becomes compacted, it can impact the level of nutrients and water running down to the grassroots. Aerating the soil opens up the soil and allows the soil to break up enough for your grass to get the nutrients it needs.

Remove leaves from the lawn

When leaves cover your lawn, they can prevent sunlight and oxygen from reaching your lawn. This can cause the grass to suffocate and die or attract disease. Large amounts of leaves should be removed from the surface of the lawn.

It’s also important to continue mowing your lawn in the fall. For guidance on the best lawn mower, check out the full buying guide from BestReviews.

Best dethatchers for fall lawn care

Top dethatcher pick

WORX WG850 Electric Dethatcher

What you need to know: An easy-to-use electric dethatcher for lawns of all sizes, it has adjustable depths.

What you’ll love: The 12-amp motor provides enough force to dethatch the toughest of lawns. Three levels of adjustable depth mean you can be as precise as you need to be.

What you should consider: The bag attachment may not collect as efficiently as you’d like.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and The Home Depot

Top dethatcher for the money

Agri-Fab 40-Inch Tine Tow Dethatcher

What you need to know: This tow attachment easily loosens and lifts thatch while you mow and is perfect for larger lawns.

What you’ll love: The rustproof tines are fully replaceable and reinforced for durability. The universal hitch makes it attachable to any model of mower while the 7-inch wheels make it smooth and easy to transport.

What you should consider: Very tough lawns and soil may require some weight to be added to the dethatcher so it can penetrate properly.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and The Home Depot

Best fertilizers for fall lawn care

Top fall fertilizer pick

Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard Fall Lawn Food

What you need to know: It’s specially formulated to provide strength to the roots of your grass after hot summers and drought ahead of dormant winter months.

What you’ll love: This package provides coverage for 5,000 square feet, which is perfect for a medium-sized home lawn. The fertilizer helps your grass to absorb water and nutrients more fully so they can repair and strengthen during fall.

What you should consider: Careful application of this fertilizer is necessary as overfertilizing can cause lawn damage.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and The Home Depot

Top fall fertilizer for the money

BIOADVANCED 5-in-1 Weed and Feed Lawn Fertilizer

What you need to know: This weed and feed fertilizer provides nutrients and kills weeds on lawns up to 4,000 square feet in size.

What you’ll love: The fertilizer also provides a weed barrier to keep your lawn free of weeds for up to six months. It’s suitable to apply in spring, summer or fall as long as temperatures are not above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

What you should consider: This fertilizer is only suitable for cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best soil aerators

Top soil aerator pick

Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator

What you need to know: This robust tow aerator is designed to penetrate the soil deeply and loosen it while you mow.

What you’ll love: This aerator provides 48 inches of coverage in one sweep. It pulls 3-inch plugs of soil for deep aeration, allowing nutrients to reach the roots. The universal hitch allows it to attach to any tractor or mower.

What you should consider: This plug aerator requires some form of motorized pulling, so it’s not suitable for handheld use.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top soil aerator for the money

Gray Bunny Lawn Coring Aerator

What you need to know: This handheld aerator works by driving spikes into the ground to create aeration plugs in the soil. It is perfect for smaller lawns.

What you’ll love: The rod and spikes are made from premium steel for long-lasting durability. The spikes provide up to three inches of soil penetration. The handle is padded for comfort to make this manual aerating task easier.

What you should consider: Extremely compacted lawns may require a more robust, motorized aerator tool for proper aeration.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best soil pH testers

Top soil pH tester pick

Gain Express Soil Ph & Moisture Meter

What you need to know: This is an easy-to-use device to help you test the pH levels of your soil with a high degree of accuracy.

What you’ll love: Simply plug the device into the ground to get your reading. The meter provides highly accurate pH and moisture readings of your soil and the testing rod is 29.5 centimeters long so you can read deep into the soil.

What you should consider: While accurate for a garden tool, it will not provide the same accuracy as lab-tested soil results.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top soil pH tester for the money

Kensizer 3-in-1 Soil Tester

What you need to know: With this soil tester, you can test the pH level, moisture level and sunlight penetration level in your lawn.

What you’ll love: The reading dashboard is clear and easy to interpret. It’s suitable for testing anything from potted plants to large lawns and flower beds. The triple reading functionality helps you diagnose exactly what type of care your lawn needs.

What you should consider: Make sure you water the soil before testing to get a more accurate reading.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Lauren Farrell writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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