University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Mid-Fall Lawn Care Activities

September 25, 1997

Even though fall just officially arrived this week, we are actually starting to move into the mid-fall lawn care calendar. It is starting to become too late for some lawn work, while it is still prime time for other activities.

For example, seeding lawns starts to become a greater risk. The early fall lawn period, which is actually late August into the first 2 weeks of September, is considered the optimum time for seeding. The question now is how much time will grasses have to germinate, develop, and harden off before the hard freezes of winter set in. As each day goes by, the risk of failure becomes greater.

Likewise, the first half of September is a good time to fertilize lawns. Late fall, around Halloween, is also a good time. Avoid heavy applications of nitrogen fertilizer, especially fast-release nitrogen, in the mid-fall period in early October. The risk of snow mold and winter damage increases if lawns are putting on lots of succulent growth in October when topgrowth should be slowing down.

For the last 2 seasons, however, the period from late August into early September has been very dry. This has hampered both seeding and fertilization timing.

Since rains have come to the area, core aerating is much easier and effective. There is still plenty of time to core aerate lawns this fall. Core aerating will help degrade thatch, improve rooting of lawn grasses, and alleviate soil compaction.

Mid-fall is also a good time for broadleaf weed control by using herbicides. Recent rains have helped improve the vigor of both the lawn grasses and the weeds. Actively growing weeds will take in the herbicide and translocate it down to the root system, providing very good control. Read and follow all product label directions. The favorable time for broadleaf weed control should last into early October.

Finally, continue mowing lawns on a regular basis throughout the remainder of fall. With the rain and cooler weather, growth rates will increase over what they had been. Mow as dictated by this growth rate, not removing more than one-third of the leaf blade in any one cutting. Also keep leaves picked up on a regular basis throughout the fall.


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