With fall firmly entrenched and winter right around the corner now, bermudagrass and zoysiagrass are turning brown and slowing down their growth. As soon as we see our first good freeze, the turf will turn totally brown, often with a wavy pattern of green and brown stripes running through the turf. The good news is that if you’ve not done so yet, one more good mowing should be it for the season, and you can put your mower to rest until next spring!
With the last mowing on warm-season turf, we recommend mowing a little higher than normal, just topping it off evenly more or less. Don’t scalp the turf now, as this removes good dormant turf that would be good insulation for the crown and root system over the winter. Winterkill is always a concern for turf managers here in the transition zone, so we like to send the turf into winter dormancy as healthy as possible, including a high mowing height. After a dry fall, we’ve finally received some nice rains, which is good for the root system. Top growth is done though, and your turf should not be that green and growing in early November, unless it’s been over-fertilized late into fall.
Cool-season turf such as fescue is still green and growing some, so you’ll need to mow a few more times into late fall. Typically fescue is grown in shade, so you’ll need to mow or rake leaves as they fall during the next few weeks. Unless the leaves are heavy, one can mow and mulch the leaf debris back into the turf. Bagging the leaf clippings is not a bad idea also, and does allow the green fescue to look really nice into fall, and to receive more beneficial sunlight. Do continue to water fescue seedlings if overseeding was done. And, remove leaves from the turf, as heavy leaves can smother tender seedlings trying to establish in the turf.
Before you put your mower to bed, drain all the gasoline from the tank and lines, as it can gum up over the winter. In fact, the best thing to do is just do a tune-up on the mower now, by changing the oil, removing gas, maybe replacing the spark plug, and sharpening the blades. Spring is a busy time at the mower shop, and for homeowners, so might as well put that chore behind you so that you can hit the ground mowing next spring!