November 9, 2015

fall-cleanupAny lawn in Ann Arbor MI will require care to maintain its health and aesthetic appeal. Soil, nutrients, variety, water, competing vegetation, etc. must be adequate before any lawnmower touches that grass. Here in Ann Arbor MI we are part of the Huron River Watershed with its rolling topography and glacial till. Soil may be sandy, gravelly, rocky, or “top soil,” and be “leached out” with little nutrient availability. This impacts the way we must prepare our lawns for winter.

Soil. Composition of soil beneath our lawn has a major impact on our preparation for winter, from fertilization to mowing and raking before the snow falls. The water table is also a factor—remember our city’s sanitary sewer disconnect program to our sump pumps. A lawn lying atop a high water table, particularly where subterranean flow is “swift,” may lack nutrients necessary for root and blade health. The lawn will need fertilizer supplements. In rocky or pebbly gravel soils, rocks will migrate to the surface with our freeze and thaw cycles. Depending on size, those rocks will limit our mowing depth, irrespective of specific inch recommendations.

Variety. Lawns may be established using seed or sod. Unfortunately, people sometimes plant lawns without understanding the necessity of having a variety compatible with our northern climate. The lawn may be well for several years and then fail in spring after an especially hard winter. A specific variety may be more vulnerable to disease in moist areas or susceptible to drought in dry areas or suffer from too much shade. “Imported” seed and sod from outside our immediate Ann Arbor MI area will suffer from more problems than locally grown sod or seed known to be compatible with our climate.

Fall Leaves. Control of leaf fall is a concern for fall lawn care as well. Many of us would prefer to forget raking and just chop or mulch, leaving debris on the lawn, inducing mold or other disease within the lawn mat and inhibiting springtime growth. A layer of leaves may also provide a home for field mice and other “varmints” which may feed on or destroy root structure.

Recommendations. In spring we want a short cut of 1.5 inches. To achieve that, our last cut in the fall should be that 1.5 inches. (The short cut encourages growth.) A deeper grass depth is preferable in the summer to preserve moisture and suppress weed growth, a cut of 2.5 to 3 inches. That level should be the goal until the fall when we gradually cut shorter to the 1.5 inch target. The general rule of thumb is that the top third of the grass may be cut during mowing. That is, don’t cut back immediately from 3 inches to 1.5. Work back a half inch at a time beginning in September when the climate cools. The mower blade should be sharp so that the remaining lawn leaves do not have lacerated—ragged edges risking loss of moisture and endangering individual lawn plants with disease (e.g., fungus) and susceptibility to insects.

Get your yard looking its absolute best with custom landscaping solutions from Twin Oaks. Find us online at, visit us in Ann Arbor, MI at 4100 South Maple Road, or call us at (734) 213-6911.