Patience Is a Virtue This Fall
Fall officially starts September 23rd this year. Usually, the onset of Fall means it is time to prepare the lawn for a beautiful Spring. Though it may seem early since Spring is 190 days away, Fall is generally the time you sow seeds for a beautiful Spring yard by preparing the soil and overseeding your grass. However, patience will be a needed virtue this year since Maryland is experiencing dry, and in some places, drought conditions. As a result, we must change how we prepare our lawns for their Spring glory.
In the past, improving soil conditions and overseeding the lawn have been pretty cut and dry.
To improve the soil:
- Keep mowing
- Mow high using the 1/3 rule (never cut more than the top 1/3 of your grass). Grass should be 3-4 inches tall after mowing.
- Stop raking leaves
- Raking leaves can damage the blades of grass and create bare spots in your lawn. Instead, mow the leaves until they are in small pieces and spread the pieces out evenly across your lawn.
- Add compost (decomposed organic matter)
- You want to add about ½ inch of compost all over the lawn. Evenly place piles of light, feathery compost all over the lawn. Then use a metal rake to push the piles out. Finally, use a rake to spread the compost over the lawn. You will want to see the blades of the grass stick up through the compost.
- Compost is important to add every year because it feeds the lawn and other organisms that help maintain the health of your grass.
To overseed the lawn:
- Aerate the soil. You can rent a machine from Home Depot or, for smaller spaces, you can use aerating shoes. Aerating the soil pokes holes in the soil so that the seed can get down into the ground to take root.
- Spread grass seed. Use a handheld cyclone spreader to spread the seed over the lawn (Turf type Tall Fescue is best for Maryland).
- Heavily water the area. Soak the first inch of soil right after seeding. Then water daily there after until you begin to see sprouts.
It usually takes a weekend’s worth of work to plan for your lush green grass in the Spring. Unfortunately, with much of Maryland’s dry conditions this process is a little different until the temperatures shift.
- Don’t mow the lawn
- Keep your lawn high during drought and dry conditions. The longer blades help shade the grass from sun damage and help establish deep roots.
- Don’t aerate the soil during dry and hot conditions.
- The temperatures need to be below 80 degrees to prevent stressing the already stressed out lawn.
- Water appropriately
- Water deeply (soaking first 1 inch of soil) between sunrise and 8 am if your blades are wilting. Turf Type Tall Fescue doesn’t typically need to be watered. It can survive drought, but if your blades are wilting, then water appropriately. Another way you can tell if your lawn is thirsty is by seeing if it bounces back up when you step on it. If it bounces up after you step on it, then it doesn’t need water.
- Use a rain gage to make sure you don’t overwater.
- Stay off the lawn
- Avoid standing, walking, and playing on the lawn until the dry conditions and hot temperatures pass.
Though this guidance seems contradictory to our regular Fall lawn care, observing this guidance can prevent damage. Once the temperatures shift, then the same basic steps can be followed. Though Fall is almost here, we have to be a little more patient and observant before we can plan for the lush green lawns we dream of in the Spring.
In short, if you want a beautiful thick green lawn in the Spring, wait until temperatures have dropped to improve the soil and overseed the lawn.
Ryan. Why Overseed?, Accessed 11 September 2023.
Sav Maive. How to Maintain Your Lawn During a Drought, May 22, 2022
University of Maryland Extension, Organic Lawn Care, Accessed 11 September 2023. https://extension.umd.edu/resource/organic-lawn-care