How to Use a String Trimmer for Fall Cleanup
String Trimmers for Fall Lawn Care
For most people, spring and summer are the seasons when they’re most actively taking care of their lawns. As any homeowner knows, however, fall is an excellent time to make sure that the yard will be in great shape for the following year.
Fall Lawn Care Steps
The list of fall lawn care steps includes the kinds of tasks that are essential for promoting healthy growth:
- Getting rid of weeds
- Maintaining grass at the recommended height
- Pruning dead and diseased tree branches
- Tilling or cultivating garden soil
- Removing fallen leaves from the lawn
Believe it or not, your string trimmer might be useful for each of these tasks. To get your property ready to weather the winter and start growing green in the spring, use your string trimmer for these essential fall lawn maintenance chores!
Getting Rid of Weeds
After the heat of summer, fall’s cooler temperatures tend to encourage new growth in weeds, sometimes even causing them to flower. If you weren’t able to prevent weeds from sprouting before summer started, eliminating them while they’re actively growing in the fall is the next best step.
However, care should be taken if you want to use a weed wacker for this task. If the weeds on your lawn have already flowered and gone to seed, knocking the seed heads off the stem risks scattering the seeds across your lawn.
Plus, if your weeds are biennials or perennials, meaning that they’ll last more than one year (dandelions are the most common perennial), trimming the flowers and stems will leave the roots intact. That means that your weeds will come back.
Your best bet for removing weeds from your lawn is to dig them out, including the roots. This can be a time-consuming and physically demanding task, but it is the most thorough method for ridding your lawn of unwanted growth.
Fall lawn care for weeds also can involve spraying them with a systemic herbicide. Because of that flush of new growth that occurs in autumn, autumn is the recommended time for using such chemical weed killers, which work by being absorbed through the leaves and roots and spread throughout the plant’s entire system. However, you may not want to use chemicals on your lawn.
Trimming back annual weeds before they flower and set seed can help stop the spread of the most common ones that can bloom in late summer and early fall:
|Common Chickweed||Shepherd's Purse||Hairy Bittercress|
If you prefer to leave your lawn soil undisturbed and let the organisms living in it do their work, or if you don’t want to create new open patches on your lawn that weeds can potentially invade, then consider trimming your annual weeds and leaving them to die in winter.
No matter which method you choose, the key to getting weeds off your lawn is to remain constantly on the lookout for them. A little bit of careful observation of your lawn in the fall can spare you a ton of work later.
Keeping Grass Short
Throughout the active growing season, the recommendation is to keep grass as long as possible—in most cases, 2 1/2” to 3 1/2” tall. Doing this helps control weed growth by preventing the sunlight that weeds need to germinate and grow from reaching them.
That changes come fall. Instead, before you put your string trimmer (and your mower) away for the winter, you should cut your lawn down much shorter. A height around 2” is generally ideal.
The reason for this is that the lower height provides much less shelter for lawn fungus, insects, and other pests and diseases during the winter.
However, because grass conducts most of its photosynthesis (the process it uses to make food) in the uppermost part of the blade, and because it needs time to adjust to its shorter length, try not to remove too much of the grass blade at one time. Follow the rule of never cutting grass down by more than one third during each mowing session, and get your lawn to the recommended height gradually.
Get More Work Done With Your String Trimmer
Of course, there’s more to your yard than grass. The trees, garden plants, and soil inside your yard will need attention in the fall, too. Although a simple string trimmer might not be able to help with maintaining them, a split boom trimmer (also called a multi-head or multi-function trimmer) can allow you to move from task to task by conveniently switching attachments such as these:
- Leaf blower
- Pole saw
Cleaning Up Leaves With a Blower Attachment
First and foremost is the job that’s a true mark of fall. You don’t need to clear leaves off your lawn if you see only a few leaves scattered here and there. However, if you would estimate that more than 20 percent of your yard is covered, it’s time to fit that leaf blower attachment to your string trimmer and get to work.
Ridding your lawn of excessive fall leaf cover keeps it healthy in three ways:
- Allows sunlight to reach the grass
- Deprives mold of wet material to grow on during winter
- Eliminates hiding places for rodents that could damage grass
To make the most of the mounds of leaves that you collect with your leaf blower, add them to a compost pile. This will add the kind of nutrient-rich decaying material that should make up the majority of your compost’s content.
Removing Branches With a Pole Saw Attachment
Autumn is an excellent time for different kinds of yard work. Although it's not the best time to prune trees, you'll want to trim limbs that are broken or ridden with disease.
Use a pole saw attachment to remove those limbs and only those limbs. Otherwise, if left for the winter, heavy snow or a cold, windy storm might break the limbs and cause more damage.
Tilling Soil With a Cultivator Attachment
Perhaps you grew a ton of annuals in your garden or landscape this year, or you planted a summer-sprouting cover crop to block weed growth and add nutrients. Once autumn comes, the green on those plants will start to fade.
But they can continue to enrich your soil if you use a cultivator attachment for your string trimmer to till them in. As the plants continue to break down over fall and winter, they’ll add even more nutrients to your soil, giving you a fertile planting bed to work with come spring. However, don’t till in any plants that exhibit common signs of disease:
- Leaf spots
- Powdery white or black growth
Fall is also a great time to add compost to your garden soil. Use your cultivator attachment to blend and distribute it evenly throughout the plot.
Several Tasks, One Tool
Once fall arrives, there’s a lot to do to prepare your lawn for the winter ahead and the spring to follow. However, you don’t need a separate piece of equipment for every chore on your list. With a good string trimmer (and perhaps a few attachments) in your garage, you’ll have exactly what you need to take some of the most important steps toward a healthy lawn.