The experts at TruGreen, the Memphis, Tenn.-based professional lawn care services provider, recommend a five-step strategy to ensure lawns at government facilities flourish this fall. The strategy should help government grounds managers keep their grounds and lawns looking healthy and well-maintained heading toward winter.

1. Fertilize in the fall. Autumn is an ideal time to fertilize lawns. For warm season grasses, properly timed applications of fertilizer high in potassium encourage healthy root growth and can protect against low temperature stress and winterkill. Cool season grasses benefit from a nitrogen-based fertilizer applied in the fall to foster new shoot development and recovery from summer stress. A green lawn in the fall promotes accumulation of food reserves important to deeper root growth and quicker spring green-up next season.

2. Aerate the area. Aeration, creating tiny holes in the lawn, lets water soak in, stimulating root growth and improving fertilizer absorption. "When you aerate a lawn, it becomes a sponge soaking up water and preventing runoff," said Kirk Hurto, vice president of Technical Services at TruGreen. "It improves irrigation and protects your lawn from thatch build-up — the layer of dead plant material that collects between the grass blades and the soil."

3. Overseeding can make a difference. Overseeding, the spreading of grass seed over existing grass to increase density or promote growth on bare spots, can improve a lawn's appearance after a rough summer. Early fall is the prime time to overseed lawns with cool season grasses. Make sure the bare areas are lightly raked to remove debris and ensure seed-to-soil contact. Complete overseeding as early in the fall as possible because the sun-warmed soil promotes rapid seed growth and lawn fill-in.

4. If it's still growing, keep mowing. Attention government grounds managers: Don't think fall means the end of mowing. To guarantee a healthy lawn in the spring, continue to mow regularly while the turf is growing.

5. Don't leave the leaves. Falling leaves are a colorful reminder that fall is in the air, but leaving layers lying around can suffocate a lawn. It's best to either remove the fallen leaves or mulch them with a mulching mower. Grounds crews can compost the leaves they collect and use them to nourish plants and shrubs, which also reduces the impact on local landfills.

"Cutting back on your lawn care during the fall results in thinning grass and bare spots that are unsightly now and can lead to weed problems and soil erosion from water runoff come spring," said Hurto. "Our technicians report that proper care of the lawn this fall enhances the start-up of lawns next spring. Improved fall root development through proper fertilization improves spring green-up and lawn density, which is important for reducing weed encroachment."

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