For many of us, gardening is one of the great joys of life. It’s a way to be in touch with nature, express our creativity, and create beauty in the world. Spending time nurturing living things is healthy, too, stretching physical muscles and letting mental knots relax.
There’s always something to do in a garden, whether you’re growing flowers, fruit and vegetables, or ornamental plants of this or that variety. After you’ve been at it for a while, you learn the patterns of the seasons, and come to know what needs to be done in each of them to keep everything thriving.
The one thing that stymies many of us, though, is what to do about the lawn, be it a rolling expanse or a tiny patch of green. Mysterious brown patches sometimes appear, unseen forces chomp at the grass and leave ragged blades, or suddenly you’ve got bites and the dog can’t stop scratching himself.
Something’s bugging your lawn for sure, and it’s more than just an annoyance. Some common lawn pests can cause allergic reactions not only in your pets, but in you and your guests, too, and can even transmit dangerous diseases.
The easiest thing to do is call a lawn care service, and in fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest using a professional company for safe and effective lawn pest control. To figure out what your brand of bug is, try three simple tests:
This test will flush out chinch bugs that may seriously damage your turf grass. As chinch bugs feed on your lawn, they inject a toxin that impedes the ability of grass to get moisture and nutrients from the soil.
Start by taking a large empty can, like a paint can, a coffee can, or one of those huge food cans you got at the warehouse store the last time you got carried away. Find a place where a problem patch of yellowed grass borders still-healthy lawn. Cut to bottom out of the can and push it two to three inches into the ground. Then pour water into the can and wait five minutes. Bugs should start floating up to the surface so you can identify them.
This test is for beetles, mole crickets, cutworms, sod webworms, and army worms that hide during the day and come out to chew your grass at night. If you’ve seen a lot of birds scratching and pecking at your lawn, it’s a pretty sure sign that worms are at work.
Flush all of these bugs to the surface with just regular soapy water. If you have lemon-scented soap, use that. Otherwise, dissolve 2 tablespoons of your dish-washing liquid in 2 gallons of water. Then pour the solution over about a square yard of lawn. In two or three minutes you’ll see the bugs rushing to the surface.
This test is for grubs, the small white beetle larvae that feed on grass roots and, if left untreated, can take over your lawn a little at a time and make it so weak that it can be rolled back like a rug.
For this test, choose several scattered 1-foot square sections and dig down 2 inches on three sides of each. Now pull the sod flaps back and examine for grubs. Five grubs or fewer per section is okay in an otherwise healthy lawn, but more indicates a problem you should have treated.
Once you’ve handled your infestation, make sure to keep to a regular maintenance schedule that assures a healthy lawn. Lawns that are thin and weak invite pests to come inside and stay a while.
For identification photos and more information about lawn pests, a good source is the American Lawns website.