After Labor Day, we begin thinking that it’s fall already. But, the calendar says autumn doesn’t officially arrive until later in the month. Even after that, summer-like weather can linger, so don’t put the lawn mower away too quickly.
Your grass is enjoying our typical fall weather with its warm days and cool nights. At the same time, weeds are also enjoying this ideal weather, and would like nothing better than to take over your lawn. During this time, your lawn should continue to be mowed at a height of 3 to 4 inches. The longer, thicker grass will discourage weeds. Weeds are lazy or, more appropriately, adventitious plants. They want to grow without putting in any effort. So they look for sunny breaks in the lawn cover. That’s easier than fighting the grass plants for sunlight, water and space.
As we get further into fall, the daytime temperatures begin to drop, the days get shorter and the grass slows down its growth. As that happens, fewer and fewer clippings will come out of the chute. For the last few mowings of the season, lower the mower deck down to 2 ½ to 3 inches.
Over the winter, the snow pack can cause long grass to mat down, and this makes it easier for winter fungal diseases to attack your lawn. The shorter blades of grass stay more upright under the snow, and this doesn’t provide optimum conditions for fungal diseases. That’s not to say that you won’t have any fungal disease problems next spring. It simply means that the risk will be less.
When the grass stops growing for the season, you may not need the mower any more. But you can repurpose it as a leaf mulcher. How well that works depends on how many leaves you have. If you have big piles of leaves, or they are spread over your lawn so densely that you can’t see green grass showing through, it would be better if you rake or blow. If there are fewer leaves, you can save time and energy by setting the mower deck in its mulch position and driving over the grass. The mower will chop up the leaves very finely and drop them on to the lawn. As the leaves decompose, they’ll become compost, returning nutrients to the soil. This will give your lawn a head start next spring as the grass plants work to green up.
Maintaining your lawn is, arguably, the most labor-intensive task that faces you each growing season. I can’t blame you for wanting to get that mower into storage. But, giving your lawn those final, lower cuts and mulching leaves in place will save you a lot of work in the end.