Fall Lawn Care
For a Lush, Green Lawn
What to do in fall
Lawn grasses in California fall into two distinct types—cool-season and warm-season. Seasonal care varies according to the type of grass you have.
Cool-season lawns are usually perennial rye and/or various fescues. Many lawn grasses sold under brand names such as Marathon or Bolero are blends of fescues and/or ryegrasses. These lawns prefer cooler temperatures—they look great during our mild winters—but go semi-dormant during the summer. They require consistent watering.
Warm-season lawns are St. Augustine, Bermuda and buffalo grasses. These thrive during hot weather and go completely dormant (stop growing, turn brown but do not die) during winter, November through March. Once the weather warms, these lawns begin to grow again and become green. Warm-season lawns need less water than cool-season lawns during summer. If you want a green lawn all year plant a cool-season or over-seed your warm-season lawn with winter (annual) rye each fall.
Determining your Lawn Type
Seasonal care for your lawn will vary depending on its type. If you’re not sure what your lawn is, dig up a small sample and have an Armstrong expert identify it.
Fall Care for Cool-Season Grasses
By late September, cool-season grasses may look a bit rough and tired—especially in hot valleys. Once the hot summer weather breaks, it’s time to feed your lawn to green it up and encourage fresh new growth.
Before you do, give it a good raking. This will remove the thatch from mowing. Next, water it well. You should never apply fertilizer to a dry lawn. Feed your lawn with a high nitrogen lawn food such as Armstrong Garden Centers Lawn Food. Water your lawn again right after applying the fertilizer. Wait to adjust your sprinklers (to water less frequently) until fall rains begin.
Controlling Weeds, Pests and Diseases in Cool-Season Lawns
If you have weeds in your lawn, fertilize with Armstrong Garden Centers Weed and Feed lawn food, following the directions on the bag. Or, use Bonide Weed Beater Ultra. For grubs and other harmful late-summer and fall lawn insects, use Bonide Insect and Grub Control or Sevin Lawn Insect Granules. For soil-borne diseases, use Bonide INFUSE Lawn & Landscape Granules.
Fall’s the time to lower the blades on your lawnmower. Or, remind your gardener to do it. It’s also an excellent time to apply gypsum to lawns growing in clay soils to improve water penetration.
Repairing Cool-Season Lawns
Cool-season grasses do not spread—they form tiny clumps that expand slowly. If you have dead patches, you will need to either plant seed or replace with sod. Be sure you use the same type of lawn you have. Obviously, sod gives instant gratification. But grass seed sprouts and grows quickly in California’s warm fall weather.
Fall Care for Warm-Season Grasses
To extend the season of your warm-season lawn, consider an early fall (first week of September) feeding. This will keep your lawn green and actively growing into November. Continue watering regularly. Mid- to late-November is still a good time to over-seed warm-season lawns with annual ryegrass.
Controlling Weeds, Pests and Diseases in Warm-Season Lawns
If you have weeds in your lawn, fertilize with Armstrong Garden Centers Weed and Feed lawn food, following the directions on the bag. Or, use Bonide Weed Beater Ultra. For grubs, chinch bugs and other harmful late-summer and fall lawn insects, use Bonide Insect and Grub Control or Sevin Lawn Insect Granules. For soil borne diseases, use Bonide INFUSE Lawn & Landscape Granules.
Once your warm-season lawn stops actively growing you can discontinue mowing. You can also stop watering (winter rains will be sufficient) unless you over-seed. If you want to over-seed with winter (or annual) ryegrass, mow the lawn as short as you can first.
Fall’s a good time to apply gypsum to lawns in clay soils to improve water penetration.
Repairing Warm-Season Lawns
Fall is not the time to repair these lawns since they are going dormant (ceasing to grow). Repair these lawns with sod or plugs in spring once the weather is consistently warm.
Over-Seeding Warm-Season Lawns
Over-seeding is when a temporary lawn of annual ryegrass (lasting until warm spring weather—just the time the dormant lawn starts to grow again) is planted “over” a warm-season lawn. It can be done as early as late August in coastal areas, but it’s best to wait for cooler temperatures in valley and inland gardens. Over-seeding is a simple process:
- Water the entire lawn well.
- De-thatch the lawn by mowing as short as you can. It’s OK to remove all the blades, leaving the above-ground stolons (stems).
- Rake the lawn to remove grass and leaves.
- Using annual (NOT perennial) ryegrass, apply the seed with a drop spreader at a rate of 5 lbs. per 1,000 square feet.
- Lightly cover the entire lawn area (using a mulch spreader) with E.B. Stone Topper.
- Water gently to moisten the top mulch.
- Keep the area moist with frequent light watering—especially on hot days.
Once the lawn is up and established (about 6 weeks) reduce watering frequency to two or three times a week depending on soil type.