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Mowing Tips for a Lush Fall Lawn: When to Mow, Leaf Removal, and Soil Care (2023)

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mowing your lawn in the fallNow’s the time to start thinking about your fall lawn care – but don’t sweat it, I’m here to help you get your grass in tip-top shape for winter.

See, while the vibrant colors of the changing leaves grab our attention, there’s still important work to be done for a lush lawn next spring.

The key is getting the right fall mowing practices locked into place. Follow my simple tips on when to mow, how short to cut, mulching leaves, fertilizing, and more to keep your turf thriving into the cool months ahead.

Trust me, a little fall lawn prep now makes a huge difference down the road.

So let’s not waste another minute – together we’ll get your yard ready to excel when spring rolls back around.

Sound good?

Key Takeaways

  • Make the final seasonal cut in late October when soil temperature drops below 45°F, at a height of 2-3 inches.
  • Mow over some fallen leaves, up to 10% coverage, to mulch them into the lawn. Too many leaves can smother the grass.
  • Fertilize with a slow-release nitrogen source about 6 weeks before expected frost to encourage root growth going into winter.
  • Repair any bare or thin spots in the lawn before it gets too cold for the grass to establish.

When to Mow

When to Mow
You’ll want to pay close attention to grass height and growth cycles as you mow your lawn this fall. Make the final cut of the season around 2 inches high before growth stops, usually by the end of October.

This prevents disease and deters voles over the winter months when grass is dormant below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep mowing regularly until that final cut to mulch up fallen leaves and allow sunlight to reach the turf.

Grass Height

Mow when the lawn reaches 3-4 inches.

Remove no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade per mowing.

Keep the mower blade sharp to avoid tearing.

Adjust mower height as the grass slows growing.

Make the final cut around 2 inches before it goes dormant.

Stay on top of mowing regularly through fall. That well-kept lawn will be ready to green up again come spring.

Growth Cycles

Here are some examples to understand growth cycles. For instance, imagine your neighbor’s Bermuda grass goes dormant as temperatures dip in October while your fescue remains green into November before its winter dormancy.

Knowing your turfgrass types and when they slow growth helps determine the last seasonal mow. Proper mowing practices like raising mower height as the growing season ends ensures healthy turfgrass through the winter.

Fall Mowing Tips

Fall Mowing Tips
When cool-season grass growth slows down near the end of October, it’s time to make that final mow of the fall before winter dormancy sets in. For optimal winter health, you’ll want to cut the lawn to about 2 inches high on that last pass—no shorter.

Leaving some extra leaf tissue will help protect the crowns from disease and discourage voles from tunneling through over the winter months.

Last Mow Date

Your grass will thank you for making that final fall mow around late October before cold temperatures hit. Give those cool-season turfgrasses one last buzzcut when soil temperatures dip below 45 degrees.

Chop those lingering leaves, too. Then park that mower in the shed and get ready for winter yard maintenance like aerating compacted areas. Your lawn will bounce back greener next spring if you put it to bed properly this fall.

Final Cut Height

Gotta give that grass a buzz before the cold hits, so crank your mower up high as a giraffe and make the final cut nice and short. This’ll deter those pesky vole varmints from making a five star resort out of your lawn over winter.

Set the grass blades to a proper height of 2 inches before growth increase stops. That care for your lawn mowing maintains a tidy turf before the deep freeze. Leaving a trim turf discourages disease and critters from ruining your landscape over the cold months.

Leaf Management

Leaf Management
When autumn leaves begin blanketing your lawn, it’s time to employ some leaf management strategies. Mowing the leaves repeatedly will mulch them into beneficial organic matter that improves the health of your turfgrass.

Once about 90 percent of the leaves have fallen, you can stop mowing for the season to allow the grass to harden off for winter dormancy.

Mulching Leaves

You can mow leaves as they fall to mulch them up real nice. This gives the turf healthy nutrients without heavy leaf debris.

  • Mow over leaves when they cover 10% of the lawn.
  • Use a mulching or leaf blade to finely shred leaves.
  • Change mowing patterns frequently to distribute nutrition evenly.

Healthy lawns start below our feet with proper mulch mowing.

Stop Mowing

Stop mowing once 90% of leaves have fallen for winter hibernation. Your lawn needs rest before the cold arrives. Let grass recover, storing energy below ground where voles can’t nibble through winter. Quit mowing while blades are still green, leaving 3 inches minimum. Delayed mowing stresses turfgrass for next year’s lush blanket.

Rest easy; you’ve cared well for the lawn. Your community appreciates its welcoming green smile.

Lawn Prep

Lawn Prep
Folks, as autumn approaches it’s time to start preparing your lawn for the colder months ahead. Make sure to apply fertilizer about 6 weeks before the first expected frost to feed the grass so it remains hardy through winter.

You’ll also want to repair any bare or thin spots now before it gets too cold for the new grass to establish. Simply scatter seed over the bare areas, lightly water to moisten the soil, then cover with a thin layer of compost or straw to protect the tender new growth.


Blanket that lawn in a feast fit for fungi before winter starves the soil!

  1. Spread hearty portions of lawn food 6 weeks before the freeze.
  2. Choose slow-release nitrogen to support root growth through dormancy.
  3. Feed the fungi and microbes that nourish your turf’s hidden half.

Fertilizing in fall prepares your lawn for winter’s harsh conditions and fuels spring green-up.

Repair Bare Spots

Let’s patch those bare spots before winter’s wrath! Grab your shovel and scoop up some fresh soil. Blend seed into that loose turf, keeping it moist until germination. Then smile as green sprouts blanket those barren patches, restoring your lawn’s luscious mantle before the deep freeze sets in.

With a little sweat and some grass seed, we’ll restore your lawn’s flawless facade before the snow flies.

Mower Maintenance

Mower Maintenance
Folks, before cutting your grass this fall, it is critical to inspect and tune up your mower. Sharpen the blades so they slice cleanly through the grass; dull edges tear the blades, causing browning. Also, check over all of the mower’s safety features, and wear eye and ear protection – you want to be safe as well as have a healthy lawn.

Sharpen Blades

You’ll prolong your mower’s life if you sharpen those blades before winter storage.

  1. Remove the mower blade and sharpen it with a file.
  2. Make sure to evenly sharpen both cutting edges.
  3. Aim for 30-45 degree bevel angles.
  4. Reinstall the blades securely.
  5. Always wear thick gloves when handling sharp mower blades!

Frequent sharpening keeps your mower operating at peak performance so it is ready to tackle your lawn in spring.

Safety Checks

Yearly, you’re at risk of over 68,000 mower injuries – inspect your machine before revving up. Check that the blade brake clutch and guards function properly. Ensure the mower blades are balanced and sharp.

Clean the underside deck, then add fresh oil and gas. Wear boots, goggles and headphones when mowing.

Weed Control

Weed Control
Mowing your grass a little taller, around 3 inches or more, will shade the soil and help discourage weed growth. You can also remove weeds manually or use targeted spot treatments for problem areas – just be sure to promote vigorous turfgrass growth to crowd out the weeds over time.

Mow Height

  • Mow to 2-3 inches, at least 1 inch lower than your summer height.
  • Shorter grass provides less leaf surface for weeds to grow.
  • But don’t scalp the lawn! Leave some green leaves for photosynthesis.
  • Gradually lower the mower over several mowings to reach the new height.

Adjusting the mow height properly in fall will help your turf thrive next spring by reducing weed competition while minimizing stress.

Manual Removal

Yank those stubborn weeds before they spread! Removing weeds by hand protects your turf without chemicals. Target unwanted plants while they are small. Use a dandelion weeder or sharp trowel to sever roots below soil level.

Discard pulled weeds promptly so seeds don’t re-sprout. Persistence prevents pervasive problems.

Soil Health

Soil Health
Aerate any compacted areas of your lawn in early fall, using a core aeration machine to punch holes in the soil. This allows air, water and nutrients to penetrate the roots. Leave mowing clippings on the lawn as you make those last cuts in fall.

Over time, those clippings will break down and add valuable organic matter to the soil.

Aerate Soil

Jolt awake to aerating the soil in autumn, my friend! Puncturing deep into the compaction returns lost vigor by dramatically boosting moisture and oxygen.

  • Plant your foot firmly beside the core aerator.
  • Crank those tines deep into the earth.
  • Extract plugs of soil to increase air space.
  • Scatter organic material into the holes.

Invigorating your landscape this fall fosters healthy grass growth when it greens up again next spring.

Clipping Benefits

Kicking up clippings fuels the feel-good blades below, friend! Those fallen fragments decompose into free turf builder, feeding deep into the ground. Rest easy as each mow mulches more plant-powered nutrients into the living lawn.

Organic Matter: Clippings break down into valuable organic material over time. This improves moisture retention and soil structure.

Nutrients: Decomposed clippings release nitrogen and minerals into the soil. This provides slow-release fertilization to turfgrass.

Protection: Mulched leaves insulate and moderate soil temperature. This helps grass roots survive extreme weather like heat and cold.

Recycling clippings saves time and money while achieving a healthier landscape. Let your lawn benefit from its own natural fertilizer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I tell when my grass has stopped growing for the season?

You’ll know grass has stopped growing when it doesn’t rebound after mowing and remains under 3 inches. The reduced sunlight and cooler temperatures of fall signal the grass to stop its growth cycle.

Is it okay to mow over fallen acorns and nuts?

It is okay to mow over fallen acorns and nuts. The mulching action of the mower will break them down, adding organic matter to your lawn. Just be sure to watch for large accumulations, which can damage the mower or leave unsightly clumps.

Should I be worried about voles or other pests damaging my lawn in winter?

Mow short in fall to deter voles and other pests. That exposes them when foraging. Come spring, fill vole runs and bare spots. Thick, vigorous grass shades out pests.

When is the right time to dethatch or aerate my lawn in the fall?

You’ll want to dethatch or aerate in early fall, before the weather turns cold and the grass stops growing. Aim for when night temperatures are still above 55F. This gives the grass time to recover before winter dormancy.

Are there any fall blooming flowers I should avoid mowing over?

Avoid mowing over asters and mums as you mow this autumn. Their colorful blooms brighten up our landscapes until frost. Focus your mower blades on the turfgrass instead to keep your lawn healthy through fall.


Mowing your lawn in the fall can seem overwhelming when reading all those tips that make it sound like advanced science. However, just use common sense – avoid scalping the grass, mulch up leaves that fall, and give the lawn one last trim before winter arrives.

Maintaining a nice lawn doesn’t require a rocket scientist. Come autumn, you already know the routine for mowing in the fall – follow your normal mowing regimen all season and the lawn will thrive.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.