This fall, prepare your lawn for winter and turn your backyard into an outdoor oasis

9-16 Home_Winterproof_web1Just because summer is over doesn’t mean you should stop taking care of your lawn. In fact, fall is an important time for your lawn, and if you do the right things at the right time, you can ensure you’ll have a lush, beautiful lawn come spring.

Don’t have a green thumb? Don’t worry. We asked the experts to share some easy, helpful tips.

  1. Fertilization: According to Chris Lemcke, National Training Director for Weed Man USA, grass plants store nutrients in the fall to survive through winter, therefore “fall fertilization is crucial to aid the plant’s revitalization come spring.”
  2. Mowing: Continue mowing your lawn until the grass stops actively growing, says Mark Schmidt, principal scientist at John Deere. Mow in the morning and follow the one-third rule, which is never cutting off more than one-third of the grass leaf blade during one mowing. Cutting your grass too short may allow weeds to gain ground.
  3. Grass Height: Keep your grass at two to two-and-a-half inches tall throughout the fall, says Missy Henriksen, Vice President of Public Affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals. “If the grass gets much taller, you risk matting, which could lead to winter lawn disease problems,” she said. “On the other hand, if you cut it too short, you’ll severely limit its ability to make and store food for growth in the spring.”
  4. Raking: Leaving leaves on the lawn is a big no-no. You might think all those leaves will act like natural fertilizer, but dead leaves will smother and damage your grass.
  5. Plant Winter Grass: If you want a gorgeous, green lawn during the winter, plant cool-season grass seed. Cool-season grass will thrive until warm-season grass starts growing in the spring. Just remember, you’ll be mowing year round!
  6. Aeration: “Do not aerate a warm season lawn in the fall,” Schmidt says. “Wait to aerate until after the lawn greens up in the summer so the turf can recover from the aeration.” However, if you’re planting a cool-season lawn, you will need to aerate it (puncture holes in it), which allows greater movement of water, fertilizer, and air to stimulate it.

9-16 Home_Winterproof_web3Fall is also a time for planting! “If you dream of coloring your yard next spring, fall is the time to get started,” said Jaclyn Hartzell, a spokesperson for Lowe’s Home Improvement. “The extra autumn work will be worth it when spring fever starts to set in next year.” She suggested planning and and shopping during September and then planting late September through early November. Plant flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips, as well as perennials, trees and shrubs.

Color It Up

Whenever you are transitioning a space to reflect not only a look, but a feeling, like an outdoor oasis, it is important to start with a color scheme. What colors appeal to you? “If you are interested in a calming, relaxing space, I would suggest working with colors found in nature, for example, sandy neutrals, ocean blues, pops of grassy green, and more,” said Chief Designer, Founder and CEO of AICO (, Michael Amini. “If you are looking to bring life into an otherwise boring outdoor space, I would recommend bold colors: pops of bright red, vibrant yellows, or visually interesting patterns.”

Use throw pillows, as they can easily define a space and can be swapped out to match the current season. “I also love the idea of drawing attention to the floor of an outdoor space,” Amini said. “Visually appealing rugs are not only a great way to conceal unattractive concrete patios or discolored wood decks, but also make a great first impression.”

A Living Wall

9-16 Home_Winterproof_web4Living green walls are a surefire way to enhance any space–they create that “wow factor” by offering alluring and inviting environments. They also offer several benefits, outside of visual appeal–the plants themselves act as a natural air filtration system, offer noise reduction properties, and can even help save on energy bills as they help to regulate temperatures in both summer and winter months. For additional information, please visit

Beyond the Yard

If you’ve got your lawn squared away and bulbs, trees, and shrubs planted for spring blooming, yet you still want your yard to feel like an oasis during the fall, here are some ideas courtesy of Missy Henriksen.

Outdoor Living Spaces: More landscapes this year have been transformed into full-service kitchens with brick ovens and grills, comfortable living and dining rooms featuring fireplaces and fire pits, and romantic canopy bedrooms. Themed spaces, such as yoga gardens or bocce fields, further personalize outdoor retreats to fit homeowners’ interests.

Lighting: As the days get shorter in the fall, it’s a bright idea to consider outdoor lighting options. Modernized functional and attractive exterior lighting can not only provide brightness, but help create a mood or ambiance in your yard, draw attention away from problem spots, and highlight special features. Add dramatic and boldly colored lights to line walkways and hang twinkling accent lighting under pergolas.

Fire Features: To warm up during brisk evenings, consider installing a fire pit, chiminea, or an outdoor fireplace. They’ll become great focal points and make for cozy and inviting gathering areas even into the winter.

Softscaping: To compliment these hard features, incorporate plants and trees that add pops of color and texture in the cooler months. This will help give a rich, finished, and inviting look to your outdoor space.

On the web: Check out for more insight on maintaining healthy green spaces.

By LaRue V. Gillespie

Photos courtesy: National Association of Landscape Professionals

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