We are really, really close to the very... last... mow... OF THE SEASON. It makes me a little sniffly to think about it. Grass is like, our thing. It's tough going through 6 months of upstate winter, just knowing that all that lovely green stuff is just waiting, hunkered down, under all that snow (weirdos).
So how do you know that it's time to stop mowing? A good rule of thumb is to do your final mow as soon as the last leaves have fallen from the trees. Your grass will slow way down in the fall, and you should be able to wait 2 or even 3 weeks between mowing. When the leaves are done, that's usually a good sign that the grass is done growing, and is instead focusing all of its energy on strengthening its root system. It knows what's coming.
Also, if you wait until all of the leaves have fallen, then you will have been able to mulch most, if not all, of the leaves into your lawn which is just so super good for it. More on that later. For now, we're going to go through the process of prepping your grass to survive the winter and come back strong in the spring.
Fortunately shutting down your lawn for the winter is actually a really simple process, and most of it you can do yourself and doesn't involve any special equipment or products.
1. Final Mow - Mow it Short! Ok, this one feels really weird to say. We are constantly touting the importance of mowing your grass long, but this is the one and only time we'll tell you to mow it short. Don't go crazy, 2 inches is probably a good length. Under a bunch of snow it gets dark and wet, which is like the perfect environment for fungus and other diseases to thrive. Mowing your grass short before the snow keeps the grass healthy. It also reduces thatch and you won't have to mow as early in the spring, when the ground is still really wet and it can do damage to the turf.
2. Clear / Mulch Leaves. Make sure that the lawn is clear of leaves at the end of the season. We recommend mulching them with your mower so that the nutrients from the leaves are fed back into the grass. If you can't mulch the leaves, or if there are too many to mulch, then it's important to remove them from the lawn before it snows. Leaves under snow are a breeding ground for all kinds of pests and diseases, and will smother the grass when it tries to grow in the spring. It's just so bad. Check out more ideas on leaf removal here.
3. Fertilize. Fall is the best time to fertilize your grass. Any type of fertilizer will help, including compost. We like to use a combination of an organic nitrogen-rich fertilizer, and a mix that is specially formulated for fall. Most fall fertilizer has an extra boost of phosphorus to stimulate root growth.
That's seriously it. I mean, there is more stuff you can do, if you're feeling frisky. We love aerating, and although we generally recommend doing it in late August to early September, it's not too late to aerate all the way up until the first frost. We are also starting to experiment with winter seeding, which is applying grass seed just before winter to thicken the grass. We're spot treating some patches so that we can compare with the untreated grass. We'll keep you posted on the progress :)