Your lawn needs special care to get through the coldest months. We give you the key information you need to look after your lawn in autumn.
Your lawn is already naturally equipped to get through the cold season. However, with a proper autumn lawn care routine, you can avoid being caught off guard by major or minor damage once spring comes around again. The most important thing to do is properly clear your lawn before winter sets in.
Remove any leaf-fall debris and twigs as the first step to prepare your lawn in autumn. This prevents the cold-season mould and fungus that can develop in damp conditions – if the lawn is left covered up in autumn, oxygen cannot circulate, which makes it vulnerable to pests and disease.
Lawn care tip: You can use your lawn mower to help you if you don’t want to rake the leaves by hand – fit it with a collection box first, then set it to a high cutting setting and run the mower over the fallen leaves. It’s easiest to collect them when they are not too thick on the ground and they are dry. You should clear leaves from your garden by mid-November at the latest – and ideally when the sun is shining.
One lawn care tip is that grass should be cut short with the last mowing of the year. This is to prevent the plants from being crushed under the weight of any snowfall, and also reduces the risk of fungus taking hold. We recommend that you use a lawn mower with collection box for this, as it makes removing the cutting residue a bit less tedious – and it’s important that you do take care to remove the clippings, as it won’t be possible to clear them from the ground once the temperature drops, and they can smother the surface of your lawn.
When to mow at the end of the season:
Cut your lawn to the usual height – around 5 cm. This keeps the grass protected and means that it will not be crushed by any snow. One exception is shady areas of lawn, which should ideally be cut to 9 cm before the cold season.
Your autumn garden care schedule should also include time to winterise your lawn mower. Empty the tank, check the oil level and carefully clean all parts of the machine. Sharpen the cutting blade and store your lawn mower somewhere dry until it is time to put it back to work.
You should plan to mow the lawn before the first frost, though take care not to do it too early, as a few days of nice weather will stimulate more growth. A dry day some time between the end of October and mid-November is ideal. The drier the lawn, the easier this last step will be to complete.
As the nights start to get colder and the days shorter, it’s not a good idea to include scarifying in your lawn care schedule. If you want to address a moss problem, it’s better to wait for the mild temperatures next spring: the ideal time to scarify your lawn is between April and May or late August and September, depending on the weather conditions. Ideally, the soil should be warm and air temperatures above 10°C.
Feeding is an essential part of lawn care, and the autumn feed has a special role in looking after your lawn, because a final fertilisation gives your lawn a dose of nutrients that helps it get through the cold season. However, conventional lawn fertiliser is too nitrogen-rich to use for autumn lawn treatment: nitrogen promotes growth, which would make the grass particularly vulnerable in cold conditions. Instead, you should apply a special potassium-rich autumn fertiliser. The potassium makes the lawn more resistant to frost and better able to withstand the darker months. So by next year, you’ll have a magnificent green carpet of turf to enjoy.
If you’ve done the last mowing of the year and still feel full of energy, keep going with the autumn lawn care, as it’s a great time to fertilise the lawn. A fertiliser spreader makes life easier here, and ensures that nutrients are spread evenly over the entire lawn.
As a rule, autumn lawn feed should be applied before the first ground frost and after mowing at the end of the season. As soon as temperatures are consistently cooler – from mid-October to the start of November – it’s time to prepare your lawn for rest with a specially formulated autumn fertiliser. The lawn’s metabolism naturally pauses between 10°C and 5°C, so you should look at the previous year’s temperatures to gauge the best time: if it was consistently below 10°C to 5°C from mid-November, you should be fertilising from early October.
For your autumn lawn care routine, opt for special fertilisers that will prepare your lawn for the low temperatures, frost, and moist air that come with the coldest months. Potassium is an important part of the fertiliser mix, as it helps your lawn to resist frost and disease. The potassium in the fertiliser gets into the cell fluid and lowers the freezing point of the grass cells, increasing the plant’s hardiness against frost. The potassium also has a beneficial effect on the metabolism of the grass.
Autumn is also the ideal time to sow seeds for new grass; use the last few warm weeks so the lawn has a chance to recover. Give it some extra care first by liberally watering scorched and damaged areas to rinse away built-up salts. You can loosen the ground or lay down some fresh soil, then sprinkle seed over the affected areas. Last but not least, cover everything with potting soil, and keep the lawn generously watered until the seeds germinate.
It’s ideal to make sowing grass seed part of your September lawn care activity, as the soil is still warm and there is usually enough rain. If seeds are sown too late, there is a risk that the delicate new blades will fall victim to frost.