If you've got a lawn, you might think that your lawn care is over now that fall is officially here. However, that's not actually true. In fact, if you want your lawn to be happy and healthy in the spring, there are a few things you need to do right now. These last-minute maintenance steps are essential if you want to prevent winter damage. Luckily, these steps aren't difficult, or time-consuming. Here are some step-by-step instructions for fall landscape maintenance:

Take Care When Mowing

Fall may be here, but you still need to mow your lawn about once a week. The continual fall mowing will keep your lawn healthy and promote a strong root base. For the first several weeks of fall, go ahead and mow your lawn to the usual height. However, during the last several weeks of fall, begin cutting your lawn slightly shorter each week. Finally, on the last mowing for the season, drop your mower to the lowest setting. Cutting your lawn shorter for the winter will expose more of the roots to the vital nutrients, and will reduce the amount of browning you'll need to deal with in the spring.

Give It Plenty of Air

Once you've cut your lawn as short as you can, you'll need to provide for air support. During the winter, the soil will get very cold, and it might even freeze. You need to make sure that there's still a way for air to get through the soil to the roots. Proper aeration is the key to that success. The best way to approach winter lawn aeration is with a gas-powered aerator, which you can rent at any equipment supply center. The gas-powered aerator will punch small holes throughout your lawn, which will allow vital air and moisture to get through to the roots.

Keep the Leaves Cleared

If you have mature trees in your yard, you're going to have a lot of leaves in your yard this fall. You might be in the habit of waiting until all the leaves have fallen before you rake them up. Unfortunately, that's not healthy for your lawn. To protect your lawn from fall and winter diseases, you should rake the leaves up at least once a week.

Apply a Fall Fertilizer

Proper fertilization is the final step in proper fall lawn maintenance. Before the first winter freeze arrives, apply a layer of dry lawn fertilizer. Be sure to apply a generous amount to your entire lawn, including any bald spots you might find. Applying fertilizer in the fall will allow it to be absorbed into the root base all winter long.