1. Leaf it be.
We used to spend backbreaking hours raking leaves off our lawns in fall, piling them into bags and carrying them off to the nearest recycle bin. But the latest advice (and the wisest, too) is to use your lawn mower to mulch the fallen leaves into the lawn. Try it! It may take a couple more passes with the lawn mower to make the leaves disappear, but eventually they will be cut up into small nutritious bites that will feed your grass.
2. Your trees will love you.
It is not only the lawn that will benefit from not raking in fall. The trees from which the leaves fell will also be grateful. After all, that is the natural cycle: leaves fall. Worms and other creatures pull the fallen leaf underground. The nutrients stored in the leaf are returned to the earth and then to the tree.
3. The myth about thatch.
You may also have been bagging grass clippings on the understanding that doing this will avoid “thatch” buildup. If thatch does become an issue, it won’t be from leaving or mulching lawn clippings, unless you have been mowing very long grass on a habitual basis. Thatch buildup comes mostly from the interlinking grass roots of the living plant. This happens most often with lawns growing in acidic conditions or where grass has been overwatered and overfed, causing it to grow too quickly.
4. Out damned thatch!
Don’t let thatch get beyond a half-inch thick, because this can deprive the grass of light, repel rain or even, in wet years, keep the ground too soggy resulting in root rot and fungal disease. If true thatch does build up in your lawn, get the lawn aerated.
5. Don’t damn the thatch.
It’s not all bad. A little thatch can even be good as it serves as mulch, keeping moisture in and roots cool. Grass seed will grow in it, too, and give you a nice springy lawn.
6. Nitrogen from grass.
If you leave grass clippings on the lawn, and even better, mulch them with your mower, you will be adding nitrogen from a natural source (grass clippings will return about one kilogram of nitrogen to every 100 square meters). This will keep the lawn that bright green colour – if it turns yellowy, that’s a good clue that it needs fertilizing from an additional source. Keep the nitrogen level low in your lawn in the fall, while providing the grass with some phosphorus and potassium and even iron. In spring, bring on the nitrogen. And leave your lawn clippings at any time!
7. Should you be a top dresser?
There are several schools of thought about top dressing a lawn; however, if you are mulching leaves and grass, this may become a moot issue. If you haven’t been doing this and want to give your lawn a treat this fall, consider this formula: six parts sand, three parts soil, one part peat moss. Add some lawn seed in fall as a final constituent. Come to think of it, add the seed whether you top dress or not.
8. The moss grows on the north side.
Moss will grow where the conditions permit and if your lawn is soggy, acidic and shady, then moss can become a nuisance. Usually moss will disappear as conditions change, but if not, you can rip it away physically and then apply a moss killer (usually iron sulphate), best applied on the lawn in spring or early fall. Another remedy is to add garden lime to acidic soil, that is soil where the pH level is below 6.5 (soil testers are available commercially), which may help prevent a return of moss.
9. Scalping your lawn.
Don’t! Even if you are super busy and want to reduce mowing time, resist the temptation to cut the grass too short, which can result in actually scalping in some areas where the ground may be a bit uneven. Cutting the grass too short can also cause the lawn to need more watering, make it susceptible to diseases and promote the growth of weeds. What is the best mowing height? Six to 7.5 cm (2.5 to three inches). If grass gets too long, mow it even higher up; wait a few days, then mow again.
10. Grass in the shade.
Yes, you can have a green lawn under trees and in shady places. There are great new mixtures of fescue that thrive in shade, plus these plants are also drought resistant and grow slowly, reducing mowing times.