Fall Yard Maintenance: the Full Checklist

Fall is a great time to get your lawn and garden in order for the winter and the following spring. You can take advantage of the cooler weather to get a handle on nasty weeds, fertilize your yard, and improve the overall appearance of your yard. Here are some tips to get you started.

Adjust Mowing Height

If summer’s heat caused you to raise the height of your lawn mower due to heat stress, set it back to about two inches tall in the fall. Cutting the lawn shorter in autumn prevents grass from matting under snow and leaves. Learn more about winterizing your lawn at this blog post we wrote!

Schedule Watering

If the weather is dry, continue watering the lawn even in the fall. Soaking the soil once a week keeps your lawn healthy.

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Seed the Lawn

Seeding your lawn in the autumn will fill out sparse areas in the following spring. One suggestion is to use ryegrass seeds, which continue to grow in the cool months of the year. Keeping the areas moist with light watering until seedlings sprout will help roots grow before winter sets in.

Feed Your Grass

Fertilizing your lawn in the fall will allow cool-season grasses, including ryegrass and bluegrass, to absorb nutrients before winter. One feeding in September and a second one in November will have your lawn looking its best in the spring.

Attack Weeds

Perennial weeds are pests and getting rid of them in the fall will prevent growth. Clover, dandelions, and other weeds spread in the fall and winter. Spray weed killers work best on moist soil.


With every lawn care project comes repair. Small dead patches can appear in any lawn and fall is a good time to fill them in. Seeding in autumn reduces weed growth and seedlings can establish themselves with a good root system.

Laying Sod

Fall is a great time to lay sod to start or repair a lawn. With moderate temperatures and cool, damp soil, sod will set in and grow well. The best sod is dense, thick, and free of weeds.

Check for Thatch

Thatch is composed of dead organic materials mixed in with living plant matter that can promote lawn disease and insect problems. Overfertilization or overwatering can cause thatch to develop. You can search for thatch by pulling out plugs of your lawn. More than 1/2 inch of thatch needs to be managed.

To get rid of thatch, you need to cut through the thatch layer and pull out debris. Vertical mowers will assist with this problem. Afterward, a hand rake will suffice to clean the debris from your lawn.


Aeration prevents thatch, loosens soil, and improves drainage. Use an aerator that pulls plugs of soil from the turf as opposed to just punching holes into the lawn.

Apply Top Dressing

Applying a thin layer of compost or soil to your lawn will improve the growth of the grass and increase the nutrient level in the soil. It will also smooth out your lawn and reduce the requirement for fertilizer. The top dressing should consist of a mixture of peat, sand, and loam. After applying, rake it into your lawn.

Prune and Trim Back Bushes and Perennials

Trimming back your bushes and perennials in autumn allows them to start growing new, fresh leaves and branches right away in the spring. You can learn more about trimming your bushes back in the autumn at our blog post.