Natural Pest Control, Solutions For your Lawn
Organic Solutions for Lawn Pest Control
When we admire a healthy green lawn or colorful landscaped yard most of us just see the plants and grass. However, if we were to take a closer at our lawns, we’d discover a thriving community of insects, bugs, and bacteria in almost every area of our yard and garden. The good news is that most of the little critters living in our lawns are beneficial or benign and cause no harm. There are a few pests that can harm our plants and lawns. People who choose to treat their grass with chemical agents can kill off the good bugs along with the bad and add harmful chemicals into the ground, water, and air. Since our pets and children often come into close contact with our lawns, organic lawn pest control is the safest choice.
Your best defense against harmful lawn pests is growing a healthy, dense lawn that is ideal for your area. Choose correct grass seed or sod for the region and your own property. Turf grass that struggles to survive and is not indigenous to the area is much more likely to attract parasitic pests. Many varieties of perennial ryegrass, fine fescue and turf tall fescue contain endophytes or symbiotic fungi that are toxic to many lawn pests. If you are reseeding or putting in a new lawn, consider selecting varieties that naturally repel lawn insects.
Steps to natural lawn pest control
Here are a few other steps for natural, organic pest control in your lawn and landscaped areas:
- Proper yard maintenance is necessary in natural pest control. Once a week walk your property and look for any standing water during both mild and hot weather. Pests can breed quickly even in small amounts of water that collect in wheel barrows, empty cans, tarps and many other non-porous containers. Also be mindful of clutter and debris that can become reciprocals to molds and mildew.
- Keep an eye open for pests in your plant beds and lawn. Be tolerant of a few bugs. They are a source of food and can be beneficial.
- Thatch development on the lawn can provide food and shelter for invasive bugs. Mulching grass clippings and adding other mulched material to the lawn as a natural fertilizer is beneficial. However, leaving heavy build up on the grass should be avoided.
- Spot treat if only small or isolated areas are affected.
- Learn which bugs are good and which are bad. This varies in different areas. Some bad bugs include chinch bugs, white grubs, bluegrass billbug, and sod wedworms.
Common lawn pests
White Grubs – Grubs are the larvae of different bugs such as masked chafers, June beetles, and Japanese beetles. You can find them lying on top of the soil shaped like a circle. They are white or very light green with a dark head. They feed on grass roots. If there are only a few grubs, they won’t do much harm. If you can count 10 or more grubs per square foot, you will soon start noticing brown patches in your lawn. Frequent watering in June and July can attract females to lay eggs. Allow your lawn to go dormant in the early summer months, and then water in August and September to promote new root growth and recovery.
Chinch Bugs – Chinch Bugs are very small but are easy to identify due to their white wings with a black spot. Your best defense is planting resistant grasses like perennial ryegrass, fine fescue, and tall fescues which have pest resistant endophytes. Chinch Bugs are common in regions with hot, dry weather.
Billbug – This is a type of weevil between ¼ to ¾ inches long. A billbug infestation looks like dollar spot disease. If you see small round brown spots in your grass, check to see if it is billbugs or a dollar spot. Grab some of the brown grass and pull upward. If the grass stems have been hollowed out and filled with sawdust looking material, you have a billbug problem. Different types of billbugs are attracted to different types of grass. Seed mixes discourage billbugs along with varieties with endophytes.
Sod Webworms - Both the larvae and the adults like sunny dry areas, and webworm damage is often mistaken for drought damage. Ground and rove beetles can be introduced to your lawn as an organic method of pest control.
Larger Animal Pests
As more of our wooded and natural areas become residential, animals are finding ways to survive outside of their natural habitat. Wildlife is often difficult to catch or even see, but holes, tunnels, mounds, divots, and pulled out plants are evidence that woodland creatures are visiting your yard. Common mammals that do lawn damage include moles, gophers, ground hogs, chipmunks, voles, squirrels, muskrats, woodchucks, raccoons, and skunks. Natural pest control for larger animals often starts with basic maintenance. Clean up any semi protected piles or spots where they can nest. Dump standing water. There are some products available at local nurseries and on line that smell like predatory animals and will detour many animals. Make sure to check with your local animal control agency about local laws and ordinances. Remember there may be many animals in any area, so if you plan on using a safe trap and then move the animal to a wooded area, realize you may need to capture several animals over a period of weeks or months.
Dogs and Cats can also cause damage. Animal urine is high in nitrogen and can be caustic to grass. The biggest problem occurs in early spring, after the snow melts and the root systems are hit the hardest. The best solution is a fence. Train your animals to urinate in a designated area and keep uninvited pets out of your yard. (Be wary of advice regarding your pet’s diet. Remember ph isn’t the problem, nitrogen is. Removing certain foods from your dog or cat’s diet may make them sick. It’s a good idea to check with your veterinarian before making any major changes.
1 Natural Organic Lawn Care for Ohio. Retrieved May 17, 2010. The Ohio State University Extension: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/4000/4031.html
2 Florida-Friendly Landscaping: Manage Yard Pests Responsibly. Retrieved May 18, 2010. Florida-Friendly Living: http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/FFL/managing-yard-pests.html
3 Bystrom, Robert. What's Digging Holes in my Yard? Retrieved May 17, 2010. University of Minnesota Extension: http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/w702whatsdigging.html