How to Care for Your Chicago Lawn This Fall

Steven Jack
Written by Steven Jack
Updated September 10, 2014
Proper lawn care in the fall is essential to the overall health of yard. (Photo courtesy of Angi member David M.)

Is it too late to put down grass seed this year? How high should you mow the lawn in fall? Should you rake leaves or leave them? A Chicago landscaper answers.

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Just because plummeting fall temperatures are around the corner in Chicago, that doesn’t mean it’s time to forget about the health of your grass. 

Proper fall lawn care is essential to the overall health of your turf next spring and summer.

Whether it’s putting down grass seed, mulching leaves or adjusting your lawn mower blade height, Chicago-area residents should follow these fall lawn care tips from Kevin Vogeler, owner of highly rated Turf Care Enterprises of Barrington, Illinois.

Set your mower blade

As fall approaches, Vogeler says your lawn mower blade should be set at one of its highest settings. Start lowering the mower blade height one notch each time you mow from the end of October until the final fall mowing. If you're still mowing your grass into late November, don't set the blade to its lowest setting. Doing so may scorch your lawn.

“Fall is one of the best times for root development,” Vogeler says. “Mowing tall allows for best photosynthesis and food production which will help aid in root development.”

Fertilize in fall

Many homeowners who apply their own lawn fertilizer put down the last application in September. However, Vogeler also recommends a final winterizing treatment at the end of October or in November.

“We find the two application method works best in this area," Vogeler says. "However, it is important to make sure the second application is a quick release type, and it goes down no sooner than the end of October but before the ground freezes, usually in December."

Mulch or rake?

Raking huge piles of leaves can be one of a dreaded chore. Vogeler says you may not need to rake all of the leaves if there are few enough that mulching with a lawn mower can break them down without smothering your grass. Mulching returns organic matter and nutrients to your lawn without breaking your back.

RELATED: Should you rake leaves or leave them?

Be sure to collect any excess mulch or grass clippings before the first snow, though, as “moisture holding debris left on the turf can encourage a disease known as snow mold which is very common in this area,” Vogeler says.

Seed your lawn

Ideally, late season grass seed applications should take place in August. If you've missed that cutoff, don't worry. Vogeler says homeowners may seed through mid-September.

“You want to make sure the grass has enough time to grow and mature so it can survive the winter,” Vogeler says. “If you miss this first window, you can do what is referred to as dormant seeding, where you put your seed down in late November or December. The seed will lie dormant until next spring.”

RELATED: How to plant grass from seed

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