The Yard Doctor is Ready to Triage Your Lawn With These 6 Tips for Fall

By Erica Christoffer, Contributing Editor, REALTOR® Magazine

Trey Rogers

Trey Rogers: The Yard Doctor

There is no better time than fall to get yards looking great, according to the “Yard Doctor” Trey Rogers, a professor of turfgrass management in the crop and soil sciences department at Michigan State University.

Here are 6 tips from Rogers to help you and your clients take advantage of the seasonal weather and vibrant colors to add dramatic curb appeal.

1. For home owners in the northern portion of the United States, fall is the single best time to fertilize a yard. During the first 10 days of September, lay a complete nitrogen and potassium combination fertilizer.

2. Fall is also the best time to reseed grass. If you have bare spots from the summer, put down a seed mix that matches the yard during the first 15 days of September. Yards with crabgrass will notice the patches turn purple with the first frost.  It is important to thoroughly seed and water those areas.

“It’s a good time because the ground is still warm, but the days are getting shorter so you don’t have as much day length to rob the moisture out of the soil,” Rogers says.

3. During the first 10 days of October, take care of those pesky weeds and dandelions. Spray a liquid broadleaf herbicide over the yard. Weeds germinate in the fall, so by treating the problem in October, there will be fewer dandelions in the spring.

4. Mow, mow, mow. If you really want a yard to look smashing, dedicate yourself to mowing twice a week with the blade set at 2 ½ to 3 inches through mid-October.

“They’ll be surprised when they see how much that makes the grass grow,” says Rogers. Don’t forget to keep watering, too.

5. It’s important to get those leaves off the ground as to not suffocate the lawn.  But a better option would be to grind up the leaves and mulch them back into the yard. Most lawnmowers have blades designed for mulching. This provides natural nutrients and can be an organic weed controller — particularly maple leaves, which are a natural herbicide toward dandelions, Rogers says.

6. Play with the fall colors. Display potted mums. Think red. Dogwood bushes are cold-weather hardy and have red or yellow branches. Holly is another great way to decorate the outside of a home, where the bright red berries on the branches can standout.

John (Trey) Rogers, Ph.D., is regarded as one of the country’s leading experts on growing and maintaining healthy lawns. He has been a professor of turfgrass science at Michigan State University for 22 years. He is also a consultant to Briggs & Stratton, a manufacturer of engines for outdoor power equipment, where he has become known as the Yard Doctor. Visit his Web site:

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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  1. Another great article. I never knew that maple leaves were an herbicide towards dandelions. Wonderful information!
    Great curb appeal makes a prospective buyer feel confident that they won’t find any problems inside the house, because the owners have taken such care with the outside. Great curb appeal will get them in the door: “Honey, stop the car! I could live here!”

  2. Herbicides are poisoning are waters and ground. Gasoline engines are poisoning are air. Why can’t some of these articles be more ‘green’ instead of ‘ the perfect looking place’ that we’ve all been ‘brainwashed’ into thinking ‘ that’ the way it should look’.

  3. Shawnee, if you don’t have any solutions, you are part of the problem. Solutions?

    As far as “brainwashing” goes…it’s really a matter of taste. Some people, perhaps you, don’t mind their lawns looking junkie, overgrown and filled with weeds. But that doesn’t sell homes…or look nice (if you have any sense of taste). Also, why can’t more people learn to edit properly? There is a difference between “are” and “our”. Just sayin’

    Great article, by the way. This is exactly what I need to help my lawn look great for next year.

  4. Jason

    Combustion engines have only been around roughly 125 years, and that is whats going to destroy our 4.5 billion year old earth. Get a new hobby beside preaching about being green, don’t be a follower of green power profiteers. Do what makes sense, don’t be wasteful.

  5. Muriel Lawty

    Ditto on what Shawnne has to say! Poisoning our environment does not serve our communities.

  6. Great article! I think that this gives people wonderful tips on how to spruce up for the winter looking into spring.

    Also, you don’t have to use harmful chemicals. There are plenty of products that you can use to rid your yard of weeds. Many lawn care companies are thinking ECO-Friendly so there are options!

    Thank you for this great article!

    Amanda Jane Hofstetter
    Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
    Annapolis Plaza

  7. If the sellers do not take care of the yard, have them hire a landscaper… If yard is left looking non-maintained… the sellers are asking for a low offer…. ir they get one…