4. Test your soil. Grass grows best in soil with a neutral pH (around 6.5 or 7). If your soil has a pH under 6.5, it’s too acidic (a common problem in highly populated areas with acidic rainfall), and you’ll need to add ground limestone (a perfect autumn job) to bring it back into balance. If the pH is over 7.5, your soil is too alkaline and in need of soil sulfur. To find out what your lawn needs, you need to find out its pH first. You can purchase a soil test kit from a local nursery or extension office, and follow the instructions on the package. Or, as Tukey suggests, you can send soil samples to the Soil Foodweb New York Laboratory (www.soilfoodwebnewyork.com) for more expensive but more comprehensive testing.
5. Pull the weeds. Since common weeds like crabgrass, plantain, and chickweed go to seed in the fall, lawn care during this time of the year should include some serious weeding. “If you look closely at any of these plants, you’ll see the seeds beginning to form at the tops of the plants right about now,” says Tukey. “If those seeds dry out and hit the ground, you’ll have even more of the weeds next year—which means you’ve got to prevent them from doing so.” Do some weeding now to spare the temptation to kill weeds with unhealthy synthetic chemicals in the spring. You can either pull them (they’re large and easy to grab now) or mow them with a bagging attachment, so the seeds don’t have a chance to hit the soil. Or, you can spray them with a vinegar solution, a classic weapon in the organic lawn-care arsenal. “Look for at least 10 percent vinegar in the solution,” says Tukey. You can mix your own vinegar and water, or buy a commercial product. Tukey suggests trying products by Perfectly Natural.
6. Rake regularly. Raking up leaves isn't just cosmetic; it's an important piece of fall lawn care. Not only will your lawn look neater, post raking, but keeping excess leaves off the lawn prevents dead patches the following spring, says Tukey. A heavy layer of autumn leaves can mat the lawn and smother it.
Organic lawn-care tip: Shred those raked-up leaves and toss them in your compost pile, or use them as mulch in your spring garden.