University of Maryland Extension

October Lawn Tips

mowed leaves on lawn

Mowing fallen leaves. Photo: Mugass,  Univ. of Minn. Extension

(More tips from HGIC)

  • Leave your rake in the shed this fall! Leaves that fall onto the lawn can be shredded with a lawnmower and left to decompose naturally. Run over the accumulated leaves several times with the mower to break them into small pieces. The decomposing leaves will release nutrients and add organic matter to the soil; they will not hurt the turf. However, deep piles of leaves need to be removed or turf crowns may smother and die.
  • Broadleaf weeds are growing vigorously with a return to cooler, wetter weather and can be effectively controlled with spot applications of labeled herbicides. Don’t apply herbicides to areas that you will be re-seeding. The herbicide will be harmful to the new seedling grass.
  • Crabgrass has already formed seed heads for next year. After a frost, it will die and the old dead plants can be removed by hand raking. If crabgrass was a severe problem this summer, apply a crabgrass preemergent next spring. Over-seeding your lawn to thicken the turf will also help combat crabgrass. Mow fescue lawns at the recommended height (3 inches), taller grass shades out crabgrass.
  • Mid-October is the ‘official’ recommended cut-off for seeding a lawn. However, if the weather does not become too cold you can sometimes sow tall fescues up to the end of this month and still have them survive the winter.
  • If still seeding, for best results, use a turf-type tall fescue cultivar at a rate of 4 lbs. of seed per 1,000 sq. ft. of area for overseeding, or 8 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. for new lawns. Mow the turf very low and rake out dead turf before reseeding.
  • Recommended cool season grasses, like tall fescue, should be fertilized in September and October 0.9 lb. of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet each month. Apply no more than 1.8 lbs. of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. in total. If it is necessary to apply lime, spread it after all fertilizer has been applied and before the ground freezes. A soil test will tell you the amount of lime required.
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