Autumn Lawn Care

By late summer, our lawns often bear the brunt of hot, dry weather or increased use, leaving them looking a little worse for wear. However, fear not! Early autumn’s mild and damp conditions present the perfect opportunity for simple lawn maintenance, ensuring your grass recovers well before winter arrives. Whether you prefer a lush, neatly trimmed lawn or embrace a more natural, wildflower-filled meadow, autumn lawn care is essential for all gardeners. Let’s dive into the key tasks you should consider for your lawn this autumn.

Scarifying Your Lawn

Thatch buildup, consisting of old grass clippings, moss, and debris on the soil surface, can hinder water penetration and air circulation within the grass. Scarifying involves raking or scarifying the lawn to remove thatch and allow your grass to breathe and absorb water more effectively. Here’s a step-by-step guide to scarifying your lawn:

Rake with a Spring-Tined Rake

Start by raking your lawn in one direction, then the other, to loosen and remove the thatch. Aim to reduce loose debris without uprooting the grass.

Powered Scarifier or Scarifying Mower

Consider using a powered scarifier or scarifying mower attachment for larger lawns. This will speed up the process and save you some effort.

Remove Thatch

Collect all the raked-out thatch and add it to your compost heap.

Your lawn might look patchy and rough after scarifying, but don’t worry – it will recover and grow better over time.

Aerating and Top Dressing

Aerating your lawn is crucial for improving air and water circulation at the grassroots, helping it withstand periods of drought or waterlogging. Follow these steps to aerate your lawn:

Garden Fork Spiking

Use a garden fork to create holes in the lawn, spacing them 10-15 cm apart, and try to go as deep as possible. Move the fork back and forth to enlarge the holes.

Powered Aerator (Optional)

You may wish to rent or buy a powered aerator for large lawns to make the task more manageable.

Hollow-Tined Aerator (For Compacted Soil)

A hollow-tined aerator is more effective on clay or waterlogged soil, creating wider holes that enhance air and moisture penetration. Sweep up the extracted plugs of soil.

After Aerating

Once you have aerated your lawn, it’s time to top-dress it to improve soil structure and drainage. For this, you can either buy ready-made top dressing or make your own blend:

Homemade Top Dressing Mix

Mix three parts sandy loam, six parts sharp sand, and one part peat-free multi-purpose compost. Adjust the amounts based on the area you need to cover.

Apply Top Dressing

Apply the mix at a rate of 2-3 kg per square meter, roughly equivalent to a shovel each time. Work it into the aeration holes using the back of a rake or a broom. Excess top dressing should soon disappear.

Gardener using a Hollow-Tined Aerator for Autumn Lawn Care
Gardener using a Hollow-Tined Aerator for Autumn Lawn Care

Feed Your Lawn (If Needed)

While many lawns can recover without additional feeding, some might benefit from an autumn lawn feed to boost their health. Look for a fertiliser specifically formulated for autumn application. Unlike other fertilisers, autumn lawn feed encourages root growth rather than leafy growth, helping your lawn prepare for winter. However, if you’re aiming to encourage more wild plants to grow, feeding may not be necessary.

When applying the fertiliser:

Timing: Apply the feed just before rain is forecast to ensure it gets adequately absorbed by the soil.

Application Rate: Follow the rate specified on the fertiliser package, usually around a handful per square meter.

Even Distribution: Scatter the fertiliser as evenly as possible across the lawn. Alternatively, use a lawn-feed spreader with a trough calibrated to the correct application rate.

Watering: If rain doesn’t arrive within a day or so, water the lawn to ensure the fertiliser dissolves and penetrates the soil.

Trim and Tidy Lawn Edges

During the summer, lawn edges might have become overgrown and unruly. Autumn is the ideal time to trim them back into shape. Follow these steps for well-defined edges:

Neat Edges in Beds

Use lawn scissors to cut back the grass for edges where the soil is neatly trimmed, but the grass has spread horizontally. Be sure to collect the clippings from the bed.

Straight Edges

If your edges aren’t straight, use a plank of wood as a guide and trim along it for a straight edge. Again, collect the trimmings to keep your garden tidy.

Overseeding for a Lush Lawn

To maintain a thick and healthy lawn, overseeding is essential. Overseeding involves adding more grass seed to your lawn periodically. Early autumn is the best time for overseeding, as the warm weather allows the new seeds to germinate before winter arrives. Follow these steps for successful overseeding:

Seed Selection: Choose grass seed that suits your lawn’s existing grass type and conditions.

Seed Spreading: Spread the grass seed evenly across the lawn, focusing on bare patches and thin areas.

Watering: Water the lawn regularly after overseeding to ensure the new seeds germinate and establish well.

Keep the Lawn Leaf-Free

As much as we all enjoy the sight of fallen leaves, they can be detrimental to your lawn if left unattended. A thick layer of leaves can block sunlight and trap moisture, potentially leading to poor grass growth and fungal issues. Use a rake to keep your lawn free from leaves throughout the autumn season.


Autumn lawn care is a rewarding endeavour that ensures a vibrant and healthy garden carpet. By following these detailed steps for each task, your lawn will thrive and provide a beautiful backdrop for your outdoor space. Remember, proper autumn lawn care sets the stage for a lush and resilient lawn in the coming seasons. Enjoy the process of caring for your lawn, and may it bring you joy and satisfaction throughout the year.

Read other Autumn Gardening articles here.

Updated on August 15, 2023

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