Lake Friendly Living Tips for Fall Lawn Care

Fall is a critical time to protect our water quality.

As deciduous trees begin to shed their leaves in preparation for winter, phosphorus may be loaded into our surface water runoff, and ultimately into our streams and lake. If leaves are not properly managed, they can add phosphorus in lakes, streams, and ponds in the fall. 

Here are some considerations for fall lawn care:

  • Use a mulching mower to shred the fallen leaves into small enough pieces to be mulched into the turf to decompose. 
  • Collect grass clippings and leaves for composting away from the road. Mix in a ratio of one part clippings to three parts leaves. Turn the compost pile every couple of weeks to hasten decomposition and eliminate odors. 

October is a good time for: 

  • Mowing: Continue as long as grass is growing. 
  • Fertilizing: If a soil test indicates your lawn needs amendments, fall is a good time to fertilize. Apply the last 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 ft.2 two weeks after last mowing (Halloween to Thanksgiving in the Northeast) when the plant is still actively growing. 
  • Raking: Collect, or finely shred, leaves from the lawn to minimize mold and prevent grass suffocation.
  • Patching: Fall is an ideal time to patch or renovate bare or thin spots to reduce runoff and erosion.
  • Core aerating: Do this to reduce compaction and improve drainage.

Remember: healthy land = clean water! 

These tips are inspired by the Homeowner’s Lawn Care and Water Quality Almanac from Cornell Cooperative Extension (Eva Gussack and Frank Rossi, Ph.D)