Fall lawn care tips

By Pete Gumas, Pest Control Adviser #71055, Antioch

Fall Fertilization

Lawn fertilization in the Fall is key to recovering from summer heat stress and preparing turf for the winter. Two good  fertilizer applications in September and late October encourages root growth and food storage for winter. Lawns grow most actively between 60 and 80 degrees F and need the most amount of fertilizer. In a future article, I’ll review later how to measure out fertilizer ,apply it accurately, and figure out lawn square footage.


Keep mower blades sharpened. Dull blades can cause frayed tips and cause a whitish look on top of turf blades. Grass blades heal slower. The lawn doesn’t look like it’s freshly cut and green.

Mow heights in Fall can lower down some with cooler weather. You can lower them through the winter and early spring. Suggested mow heights for Tall Fescue is 2 to 2.5”; while Kentucky Bluegrass-Ryegrass can be mowed at 2”.

Regular mowing, fertilizing, and watering keeps lawns actively growing. Turf can grow out of disease or other issues it may face. Limit mowing to 1/3 of the blade per mowing to avoid stress. Plus, using a recycling mower and mowing no more than 1/3 of the blade can help recut clippings in the mower chamber. For example, a lawn at 3”, can be cut at 2”, or a 4” tall lawn can be mowed at 2 and ¾”.


Fall is a great time to “skip a day” as our days get shorter and nights cooler. For instance, watering deep every two days in July-August should be watering every 4th day in late October. That’s 50% less in just two months. Here’s an example of “skipping a day”:

July-August: Water lawns every 2 days deep

September: Water every 3rd day deep

October: Water every 4th day deep

November: Water every 5th day deep or off from rain

December: Off! It’s raining now.

Run times will vary with the type of lawn sprinkler you have.

Re-seeding and Renovation

Fall’s a great time to reseed because the weather is cooler and ideal for seed germination. Summer heat is too hot in Antioch and East County to seed. Choose to overseed from late September to early November.

  1. Rake up dead grass and loosen up soil. Mow the rest of the lawn short
  2. Add in some compost to bare spots, mix into top 1 to 2” of soil with your rake
  3. Level off soil with the flat or top part of your rake. Level off to soil height
  4. Match up seed at a nursery or supplier. Usually it’s a Tall fescue or Blue/rye mix
  5. Scatter seed out to cover most of bare soil
  6. Topdress seed with ¼” organic compost to cover all seed
  7. Begin irrigation and keep seed moist for 3 weeks. Water short 5-7 minute cycles 3 times per day. Begin watering at 8am, 12 noon, and 3pm to keep seed moist. If the seed dries out, the seed will die. That’s why watering new seed is very critical to success. Keep that seed wet!
  8. Then, after seeds “pops up”, you can slowly reduce water times to 1 or 2 times per day as weather cools down in fall.
  9. Your first mowing will be at about one month. Mow higher, 2.5 to 3” at first. This puts less stress on new seedlings. You can lower the mow height later in late November into December.

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