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A Practical Guide on Eliminating Pests and Weeds From Your Lawn

Michael is an avid writer and researcher in gardening and related topics.

Timing is important in lawn care.

Timing is important in lawn care.

Creating the Ultimate Lawn

Your lawn may not look as lush as it used to. This indicates that it is time to deal with the root causes instead of spending time and effort grappling with effects.

It is not enough for any lawn to simply look visually appealing. It needs to have the hardiness required to contend with and overcome setbacks that come in the form of diseases, pests (including insects) and weeds.

It is best to develop a habit of keeping a close watch over your lawn. This will help you deal with potential problems before they develop into a level that is too complex to manage.

Timing is important in lawn care. The sooner you are able to detect potential threats before actual damage manifests, the less costly and burdensome your maintenance will be.

For instance, you may look around and spot holes or depressions that were not there before. A simple observation as this can be a telltale sign as it may indicate that skunks have started to dig the turf in their search for grub larvae.

If this is the case, then it is already too late to contain the situation. A much more radical course of action would be required. So acting preemptively rather than reactively can rescue and protect a lawn from irreparable damage.

An important first step therefore, is to identify the root cause. The question to ask here is: what specific pest is responsible and what particular reason brought about the infestation?

If you have investigated and discovered that the pest population is at a threatening level, pesticides will be required to reverse the situation. Pesticide is a generic word that is used to classify all herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. They can either be organic or synthetic.

This article examines the following topics.

1. Making the right preparations

2. Key factors to consider

3. How to get rid of sod webworms

4. How to eliminate chinch bugs

5. How to exterminate grubs

6. How to eradicate weeds

In a given acre of land, there can be up to 40 million insects. Over 90% of all pests are not harmful at all and even those that are have natural predators which help regulate their populations and balance the ecosystem.

1. Making the Right Preparations

However, before you go purchasing and using pesticides, consider the following precautions.

1. You should never release a pesticide near any water source. Avoid any application that spreads onto pavements, driveways or other surfaces that could potentially result in the chemicals being drained away or washed further into water bodies.

2. Always check the weather conditions first. For example, using pesticides on a windy day will likely scatter the chemicals beyond the intended area of application. Study the forecast prior to application to ensure your efforts are not sabotaged by the elements.

3. Refrain from any application until you have thoroughly read and understood the instructions as well as the directions provided on the label. The label will give you correct information concerning the product's ingredients, what kind of pests it is meant to control, the appropriate dosage, how to mix and use it in the right way.

4. Once an area has been treated, ensure that you keep off that area until the application has fully settled and dried. The same goes for other adults, children and pets living with you.

5. As far as possible, use spot treatments for infestations that involve insects and weeds.

One mistake that lawn owners make is becoming over-zealous in the attempt to rectify the situation and will thereby seek to eliminate most or all insects at once.

We know that not every animal is a pest. In the same way, not all insects pose a danger to the health of the lawn. Over 90% are not harmful at all and even those that are have natural predators which help regulate and balance the ecosystem. Such predators include toads, bats, birds and other larger insects.

Insect species are in the hundreds of thousands and most do no harm to grass. In a given acre of land, there can be up to 40 million insects. The key therefore, is to be aware of the specific types of insects that pose a threat to your lawn and then see how best their population can be managed.

In certain countries for example, the insects that cause major damage to turf grass are chinch bugs, grubs and sod webworms. These are pests whose populations thrive in lawns that have not been maintained consistently.

The best are the ones that are natural or organic in composition.

The best are the ones that are natural or organic in composition.

2. Key Factors to Consider

Though there are over 200 pesticides for lawn care on the market which have EPA approval, most contain a blend or combination of chemicals intended to create different varieties.

These ingredients make them poisonous to humans, pets and other animals. Pesticides have for a long time been connected with dangerous effects like cancer, mutations, and even birth defects.

There have also been tests carried out by the Government that have shown ground water contamination in various degrees as a result of lawn care pesticides.

In order to avoid damage to yourself, your household and the ecosystem, you need do the following:

1. Identify the real cause and nature of the lawn problem you have. Avoid making assumptions based on general observations or drawing conclusions from advice you have received from unproven sources.

Understand the type of pests that you are up against. It is very easy to apply pesticides in quantities which are much more than necessary because of incorrectly assessing the true nature of the challenge at hand.

2. Choose the correct pesticide. Do your due diligence and select carefully. Remember that when it comes to pesticides, there are differences in concentration and the highest concentrations are usually for industrial or commercial use.

Therefore, you need to ensure you only select lawn pesticides fit for residential use and those with the lowest toxicity level. The best pesticides to go for are the ones that are natural or organic in composition.

3. During the application process, always ensure that you have protective clothing. This includes gloves and a mask. The pesticide can be toxic and dangerous if absorbed into the body or ingested.

There should be enough ventilation when you apply the pesticide, but again it should not be windy, as this may result in the pesticide being transported to other places.

4. Ensure that the area of application is clear. Items such as toys and feeding bowls should be removed beforehand. Anything exposed during the application process will need to be washed thoroughly to ensure there no residue is present. Keep children and pets away and do not use the lawn until the pesticide has settled and dried.

5. Always aim for prevention rather than cure. Irrespective of how nice it looks, a weak and unstable lawn will not be able to put up the resistance required against pests. It cannot avoid succumbing to a disease attack if it is already internally compromised.

Therefore, prevention and defense activities against both pests and diseases are at the forefront. These include proper fertilization, adjustment of soil PH, watering, mowing, and other lawn care practices.

3. How to Get Rid of Sod Webworms

Sod webworms inhabit underground tunnels lined in silk and can usually be observed flying about in the evenings. The damage they cause comes about through their consumption of the stems and leaves.

The brown patches they leave behind are a sign that an infestation is taking place. Usually, this would not show on healthy grass, but on dormant grass or grass that has been cropped closely with a damaged area.

The eggs are laid by the female webworm moths during spring and they can lay 60 eggs per night. It takes a week for an egg to hatch while the cycle from larvae to adult stage is completed within 10 weeks.

There can be several generations of these insects over the seasons and they can pass winter in underground tunnels. By the third generation, the grass is already under stress and the lawn is in jeopardy.

The key to controlling sod webworms is targeting the larva instead of the adults. Understanding the lifecycle is important. If what is manifesting is the early larva stage, then it would be best to apply Bacillus Thuringiensis, a naturally occurring bacterium.

Avoid the use of any pesticides that could potentially eliminate sod webworm predators. Since these pests come out to feed at night, it would be best to spray the pesticide late in the afternoon so that the poison is ingested.

You could also use a turfgrass which is tough enough to resist the worms. Tall fescues and perennial ryegrass are examples of grass types that are endophyte enhanced and are resistant to the worms.

The natural, environmentally-safe solution to prevent sod webworms from attacking your lawn is to have a population of predatory insects that feed on them. Also, mowing and watering the grass at the right times and sufficiently fertilizing the lawn will reverse the damage caused by these pests.

Chinch bugs are active in the period between late June and early September.

Chinch bugs are active in the period between late June and early September.

4. How to Eliminate Chinch Bugs

The chinch bug damages the lawn by sucking at the fluids in the stems and leaves. Their saliva contains poison that is injected into the blade and this impedes the movement of water inside the blade.

As a result, the blade discolors and dries up. Thereafter, the bug moves onto another blade. This process continues until there is an outward spread and dead patches begin to show up in your lawn.

These bugs are active in the period between late June and early September. As they are so minute in size, the best way to identify their presence is with a magnifying glass or by floating.

The floating process is simple. Take a coffee can and remove its top and bottom. Place the can on the ground and beat it in to a depth of approximately 2 inches.

Pour some water into the can upto three-quarters full and let it stay for 10 minutes. After this, agitate the water to see if any chinch bugs come to the surface. If you notice over five chinch bugs, it is a sign that the situation needs to be contained.

You can start taking action by raking the grass to remove the thatch that collects in the top layer because doing so will spoil the places where they hibernate during winter.

As with sod webworms, you can employ the use of turfgrass that is resistant to chinch bugs such as fine fescues, tall fescues and perennial ryegrass.

If the situation is beyond the point of remedy through raking or watering the lawn, you could go for either granular or liquid insecticides. If you decide to use granular insecticide, confirm first if the lawn has to be watered after application and how much water would be required.

5. How to Exterminate Grubs

Grubs are very tiny, yet they are one of the most lawn-damaging pests in the US. According to the Department of Agriculture, the white grub alone is responsible for household losses of $234 million annually. In many cases, lawns affected by grubs have to be replaced altogether.

Lance Walheim, the author of the book Lawn Care for Dummies states the following: "When grubs are close to the surface, starling and crows, as well as moles, shrew and skunks can be seen digging them up because they're a food source."

Actually, grubs are nothing more than the larvae or youthful stage of development of the scarab beetle which includes the chafer, Japanese beetle, May and June beetle.

Grubs remain a few inches under the surface of the ground and busy themselves feeding on the roots of the grass. Due to the fact that the activity takes place below the surface, identifying signs of grub damage may not be easy.

However, if you see that your grass is starting to develop a dried or wilted look, despite the fact that there is moisture in the soil then that can be a red flag. You can also tell if there is a visible weakening or thinning of the lawn.

Another sign is the appearance of large irregular, brown patches or big patches of dead turf that can be easily pulled up from the ground. Watch out for wilted grass that contains brown and small dead areas that are spreading fast. The grass may also have a spongy feel because it is not properly secured on the ground.

As noted before, moles and other pests feed on grubs. So if you find your lawn has been dug up, this could be an indication of an attack from grubs. If you come across about 15 or more grubs in a square foot of ground, then the lawn is in real need of management.

Usually, the damage caused by grubs is most intense toward the end of the summer season, though the process can start as early as late spring. Therefore the earlier the situation can be controlled, the better.

So it would be best to start taking action from May and then throughout the summer period. Proper watering and irrigation protect the roots and so are the best means of prevention you have against this menace.

With regard to pesticides, Season-Long Grub Control is the product recommended by turf professionals with Merit® as the active ingredient and this is sure to eliminate every common kind of grub.

The process of application is simple in that you just need to apply the product to the lawn and then water it to form a protective cover against grubs that will endure throughout summer.

In case your lawn is already infiltrated by this malicious pest, use 24-Hour Grub Killer Plus as this product works really fast. It contains Dylox® as the active ingredient which is said to act quicker than all the grub killers on the market.

The grubs will typically cease their activities and begin to perish within 24 hours. As an added advantage, this chemical also destroys other pests such as mole crickets, cutworms, and webworms.

Avoid watering or fertilizing the lawn too often, as this adds stress to the turf and allows spaces to develop where weeds can easily start flourishing.

6. How to Eradicate Weeds

Weeds are an unwelcome nuisance because they compete with the turf for nutrients and minerals. They also compete for sunlight as well. They are unpleasant and unsightly to look at and cause damage to the development of the turf.

You cannot have a properly maintained lawn without eradicating weeds. Weeding is a process that needs to be conducted on a regular basis.

The first means of combating weeds is by ensuring that your lawn is mowed as often as required. In this way, you will be able to discover and control any weeds lurking around instead of just ensuring the lawn has an aesthetic appeal.

As we have observed in a previous article, you need to keep to the one-third rule when mowing your lawn. This means that you should cut only to a depth of one-third of the turf and no more.

Avoid watering or fertilizing the lawn too often, as this adds stress to the turf and allows spaces to develop where weeds can easily start flourishing.

Ensure that you manage the weeds while they are still in their initial stages of development because the older they get, the more difficult they are to deal with.

If you go for herbicides ensure that you choose one that has been thoroughly tested, approved or recommended by experts, whose chemicals target the weeds exclusively and not the rest of the lawn.

You could also opt for manual weeding as an eco-friendly solution to the problem. It may cost more time and effort on your part, but it will ensure that only the unwanted weeds are dealt with.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Michael Duncan (author) from Germany on January 31, 2021:

Thanks, Liz and Peggy for your comments. Fortunately, the actual product package is different. I guess the YouTuber threw that in there for comic relief :)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 31, 2021:

Your article offers sound advice. We need to get out there and start raking up some of the thatch. I agree with Liz that the grub control does look a lot like a cereal box.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 31, 2021:

This is a very helpful and well-structured article. I was amused by the Anderson's grub control pack with its resemblance to Kellogs cornflakes breakfast cereal.

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