By Kathy Ray
The temperatures are cooling and the leaves are turning, and families with children are getting back to “normal.” A lot of you would probably like to go back in time and have a spring and summer “do-over.” Let’s do that! We’ll begin this conversation about spring.
Are you one of those people who can’t wait for winter to move out so you can “spring” outside? Come on, admit it. There is always that one person who wants to be the first to mow. But, I bet about now, you are ready to break up your relationship with your lawnmower. We feel your pain, but don’t quite give up yet. There are a few important tasks to add to your fall checklist when it comes to your lawn and mower.
To begin, this is an ideal time to prep your yard for the next season. Even if that season is spring, and it seems like nothing more than a sweet dream at this point. Our autumn temperatures slow above-ground growth and a moister soil encourages a strong root development.
If rainfall tends to pool on your grass, it’s a good time to aerate. By aerating, you are de-compressing the soil so water and nutrients can reach the roots. An aerator should pull out 2½ to 3-inch-deep soil plugs. These plugs will break down naturally by spring.
Again, let’s allow our thoughts to drift back to spring. Most people fertilize in the spring to attain the lush, green lawn of their dreams. Was that you? If it was, take note. Fall is one of the most beneficial times to feed your grass. Grass roots continue to grow until the ground temperature gets down to around 40 degrees, so this is a good time to feed those roots. A high-phosphorus mix applied to lawns in the fall not only encourages strong grass roots, it is beneficial to your turf greening up earlier in the spring.
To complement that lawn treatment, we should talk about the final lawn mowing of the season. You want to trim your grass down to 1¼ inches for the final cut. There are a couple of reasons why. One, disease has a harder time with shorter grass, and the second reason is, when leaves blow across your lawn they tend to not get hung up on high grass but continue blowing across and not sleep on your lawn all winter. Do be careful though to not cut your grass too short. The upper part of a blade of grass is where most of its food is absorbed.
Whoa, wait a minute – you can’t do that final mowing and push your mower in the garage and walk away! An end-of-summer tune-up will keep your equipment in great shape and ready more quickly in the spring to allow you to be that first person to mow in your neighborhood. Come on, let’s get started.
First, drain the gas from your mower. Unused gas left in a mower over the winter can gum up the carburetor and invite rust. To start, add fuel stabilizer to the tank and then run the mower to distribute it through the system. Turn off the mower and allow it to cool before you siphon the gas into a clean can. Restart your mower and allow it to run until it stops. Repeat this until the engine will no longer start and the fuel lines are empty.
For safety reasons, disconnect the spark plug before proceeding to the next steps. You will also need to wear thick gloves. Spark plug disconnected? Check. Heavy gloves on? Check. Okay, let’s proceed.
Start by removing the blade. This can be easily done by unscrewing the bolts holding it in place. This is a perfect time to have the blade sharpened. Next, set the mower on its side with the air filter and carburetor facing up. This will prevent any oil or residual gas from spilling into them. Have a pan ready and remove the oil reservoir plug and slowly tilt the mower until the oil begins to drain. Replace the plug when all the oil is drained.
With the mower remaining in this position, use a putty knife and wire brush to scrape off any grass and mud caked on the mower deck. Once you’ve finished, turn the mower upright and fill the tank with fresh oil.
A dirty air filter can hinder proper and efficient running of your mower, so replace your air filter. You may have a sponge filter; in that case, clean it good with soap and water, allow it to dry completely, put a small amount of clean oil on it, and then re-install. If you notice the cooling fins are filled with dirt or debris, use a screwdriver or something similar to scrape it out.
If you recall earlier, I recommended you remove the spark plug for safety reasons. Since the plug is already removed, replace it with a new one. They are inexpensive and will ensure a smooth start in the spring.
Don’t be mowed under with these tasks. They really aren’t that difficult and will add years to the life of your lawnmower. And now you can settle down for a long winter’s nap, with visions of lawn mowing and green, green grass!
Author Kathy Ray is Vice President of Pond Wiser, Inc.
Fall Checklist for your Lawn and Mower