August might be a sleepy month, but the attention you give your lawn in this last full month of the season could help it stay healthy through the winter. Your local Cooperative Extension offers tips more tailored to your particular region, but here’s some advice that should work for most of us.
If you rushed through early-spring mower-prep chores, your mower might still be showing some hesitation. For either flaky operation or, worse, stalling while running, look back at what you didn’t do. Pull out the spark plug, check the gap, inspect it and at least give it a good wire-brushing (then rub some engine oil into the threads) before putting it back in. Replace the air filter if you hadn’t. But before you put on a new filter, spray a little carburetor cleaner into the intake port. That, plus the use of stabilized fuel—or even some ethanol-free gas—should restore some of your mower’s lust for life.
Sharpen that blade
Optimally, you began the season with a sharp blade, but it’s also good to finish the season with one. Grass cut cleanly can be healthier going into the fall and winter. For an easy-to-remember guide, you get about ten hours of good cutting before you need to sharpen the blade. Having a spare keeps you from losing time while getting a blade sharpened.
Grass this time of year needs plenty of water unless you’ve let it go dormant—easy to do if your region has had drought conditions. Besides watering in early morning and late evening, cut the grass a bit shorter than the usual three inches. But don’t scalp it; there’s still enough sun to burn the lawn. When you cut, as with the rest of the year, slice off no more than a third of the grass’s height.
Mulch vs. bag
Behind on pulling the weeds? Think twice about mulching this time of year. While leaving clippings on the lawn generally provides a good (and free) fertilizer, you don’t want to do the work of the weeds—and spread their accursed seed even more broadly. Consider bagging instead, and spread a broadleaf weed killer next month if you’re not averse to a little chemical warfare. The alternative? Learn to love weeds, which suits us fine once they’re plunked into a yard-waste bag.
A little lawn quilting
This magic period of less-direct sunlight, before the leaves start falling, is a good time to plant grass seed in bare areas—a patch here, a patch there. Clear away any thatch or other growth, and loosen up the soil. But you can’t have it both ways. Weed killer tends to keep new grass from sprouting. Check the label of whatever you’re thinking of putting down to see how long you should wait after reseeding before you use the product.
Better still, skip the chemicals. Fight the weeds where they are and yank them up, one by one. Leave one behind, on a skewer you’ve stuck into the ground, as an example to others. It might not make a difference, but you’ll feel in control for a change.