Lawn care does not stop when summer ends. To the contrary, when it comes to routine turf maintenance the late summer to early fall months are a critical time for cool season lawns.

Cool season lawns are a group of turf species comprised mainly of Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescue. If you are a homeowner in Minnesota and Wisconsin with a lawn, more than likely it is a cool season type. Cool season lawns green up quickly in the spring and fall but may go dormant during the hottest part of summer.

Coming out of a hot, dry summer, cool season lawns will be stressed and could use some tender loving care. Following are five tips to pick up your lawn as the summer fades to fall.

  1. Aerate – A great way to relieve soil compaction and reduce thatch. The machine for the job is a hollow-tine aerator (a.k.a. core aerator). Aerating will also help to increase air and water infiltration, improving turf stand health, which allows grass to combat common lawn disease. Operate the core aerator a few days after a rain when the soil is still slightly damp. Core aerators cannot cut into hard, dry soil. Leave the soil cores to break down over the next few weeks.
  2. Overseed – Broadcast seed into an established lawn with a seeder or by hand. Slit seeders are a great tool for overseeding into established lawns. Select a high-quality seed and set seeder at the correct rate.
  3. Fertilize – Apply 1 pound of nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 square feet.  If you only do one lawn feeding a year, this should be it!

Bonus Tip: To patch bare spots, rake up the soil surface for good seed-to-soil contact. Mix bagged topsoil with bagged compost 50/50. Combine grass seed with the soil/compost mix at a 3:1 ratio. Three scoops of soil mix with one scoop of seed. Apply the 3:1 mix to the bare spot, firm up the patch with your hands. Keep the area moist until germination and follow up with watering while the young grass plants develop. Cornell has a great video on this technique.

Fertilizer: Bauer’s carries Milorganite, a natural fertilizer made locally in Milwaukee, WI.  Milorganite is almost a century old company that creates this natural fertilizer through recycling efforts.  The fertilizer contains no salts so it won’t burn your lawns, is a slow-release fertilizer providing nutrients for 10 weeks after application, adds organic matter to feed the soil, and so many other benefits.  Milorganite is also a great fertilizer for your veggie and flower gardens too.

Sources: & Milorganite website