A beautiful lawn is the icing on the cake when you’re improving your home’s curb appeal, but pests are about as welcome as flies in the frosting. Dying, discolored grass and bald patches usually indicate the presence of pests. Tunnels and holes mean you’re likely hosting some kind of burrowing animal. Either way, you want them gone and now!
Sooner or later, you’re probably going to deal with lawn pests. Not all insects are created equal, so you have to determine the extent of the damage, as well as what’s causing it. Insects that feed on the roots of the grass cause the most damage to your lawn. White grubs and billbugs can destroy an entire area where they feed. These little monsters usually show up in late spring or early summer. So once you’ve determined you’ve got grubs, how do you deal? Irrigate regularly, making sure your lawn receives one to three inches of water per week to reduce root feeder damage. Try Milky Spore, a nontoxic method that contains a bacteria that kills the grub after ingested. Another pesticide-free method is to apply nematodes to your lawn. These parasites will kill the grubs within 48 hours. You can also make your own grub killer with mouthwash, dish soap, and water!
Pests that feed on the blades of the grass include chinch bugs, a dastardly insect that sucks moisture out of the leaf, then injects a poison that kills the grass. Your lawn will look yellow or orange and, eventually, turn brown and die. Damage happens in the sunniest part of the yard, during hot or dry weather. Ways to get rid of the little suckers include mowing your lawn at the maximum recommended height, keeping your yard well-watered and using slow-release organic fertilizer. Many organic products will penetrate the shell of the insect and cause dehydration.
Not all lawn pests are tiny with hard shells or a lot of legs. Some are rodents! Moles, gophers, and rats tunnel through your lawn, churning up the ground. Moles leave raised ridges and round, symmetrical mounds of dirt behind. Their burrowing destroys the grass at the root. Gophers, on the other hand, don’t create ridges. Their tunnels are flatter, with fan-shaped mounds. Gophers eat the roots of the grass, pulling the lawn down underground. Rats are also notorious tunnel-makers. They burrow from their nest to food sources or to escape predators. Rats don’t like open spaces, so their underground pathways are often under bushes or dense vegetation. You could use poison to get rid of these nuisances, but that’s not always a good idea, especially if you have pets. Instead, try live traps. This is the best way to ensure no other animals are harmed. Live traps have sensors that enclose the rat once it enters. For moles and gophers, the only sure-fire way is to use traps that are specifically designed to kill the rodents. Mole repellent and home remedies are less effective.
Preventing these problems in the first place puts you one step ahead of the game. Since rodents come to your yard to eat the insects, removing that food supply helps keep them away. The best way to do that is to keep the lawn healthy. Mow frequently and water and fertilize often. Rake on a regular basis to prevent the build-up of dead vegetation. Also, consider positioning plants around your yard that repel insects. These include marigolds, chrysanthemums, petunias, lavender, and basil. As an added bonus, they will enrich the soil and attract bees. And try companion planting.
That’s putting two species side by side that complement each other. Roses with garlic. Grapes and geraniums. Dill and parsley with flowers and vegetables. Together, these combinations do a great job of warding off pests and attracting beneficial insects, all while both plants flourish!