Lawn Care Experts

Articles within the Pests & Diseases Category

Not all lawn inhabitants are bad. A little understanding may result in an appreciation of the benefits of the inhabitant, an acceptance that little can be done or a solution based around sound lawn care practices rather than chemicals and poisons.

Ants & Bees

Mysterious holes and mounds that form in the summer lawn!

Ants in the Lawn

Ant Hill in the Lawn Ant life is in full swing in the summer as they tunnel away building vast breeding chambers below the surface of the soil. As they dig, the excavated soil starts forming mounds or ‘ant hills’ above ground.

They like dry soils with most ant activity occurring in patios, paths and driveways. However, they can and do live in lawns forming quite large hills which are unsightly and a problem for the mower. In addition the ants will cut the roots of your lawn away to make way for their tunnels. Ouch!

If you notice ants and need to get rid you need to use products that will not harm the grass. You can use enclosed Ant Bait Stations containing poison that the ants take into the nest. These are also good as a preventative as they can be left in place. For something a little more instant use Soluble Ant Killer Sachets - they water in without leaving powder residues.

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Getting rid of the hill can also be a problem. The soil has come from below ground and unlikely to sink thereby causing serious mower problems. Your best bet therefore, is to brush or sweep the hill and disperse it over the lawn. An old vacuum cleaner would be the ideal tool for removing the hill.

Bees

Miner Bee in then GardenThese are not your regular bumble bee or honey bee but miner bees. They’re quite cute as far as bees go with no sting. They excavate small holes in the ground for nests which cause very little damage and possibly adding beneficial aeration. If the excavated soil causes a problem you can easily sweep this up without causing any problems to yourself or the bee.

These are interesting insects and responsible for a lot of pollination making the world a better place. You should be pleased to have them in your lawn.

Chafer Grubs

Chafer BeetleA very common insect throughout the UK and Europe hatching in May to June – hence the name June Bug!

The adult chafer beetle does no damage to turf but the larvae or grub likes to dine on grass roots. In most occurrences the damage is minimal but if the grubs build up into large numbers then areas of your lawn can suffer damage and drying.

The most serious damage will occur when the local wildlife find that your lawn contains a few kilos of highly nutritious and protein rich larvae! Hopefully it will be just birds pecking and tugging at the loose turf because if a badger discovers them, then kiss goodbye to a large area of lawn!! Hedgehogs and foxes will also find your lawn a delicious banqueting table! So, let the birds clear the lawn of rooting eating grubs as quickly as possible.

If you see chafer beetles or grubs don’t panic. Most lawns and gardens have a healthy number living in and around them without any discernible damage. They are part of the natural balance and make your garden a more interesting and rewarding place.

Identification

Grubs are typically around 1 to 1.5cm and have a cream coloured body with orange to brown head section. They have three pairs of quite distinct insect type legs.Chafer Grub

If you have a problem you will notice one of three things:

  • Adult beetles can be seen around May & June. If you see a lot then be prepared for possible problems later in the year
  • Patches of lawn dry severely and the turf can be pulled or peeled up easily – look for grubs on or just below the soil surface
  • Lawn damage as the wildlife starts ripping and pulling moss, grass and thatch out of the lawn. Once again look for chafer grubs on or just below the soil surface

If you suspect a problem peel back several patches of turf and if you have more than about 5 grubs per square foot then damage will more than likely occur. As there is no pesticide now available scarification, aeration and over seeding will be required after an attack to reduce the population and repair the lawn.

If you do see grubs and they are dark grey and leathery then you have a leather jacket infestation NOT Chafers.

Crane Fly & Leatherjackets

Crane FlyThe Crane Fly or Daddy Longlegs is the adult and the Leather Jacket the larvae. It is only the larvae that cause damage to your lawn and are a delicious treat for the local wildlife!

If you see crane fly or leather jackets don’t panic and go into extermination mode. Most lawns and gardens have a healthy number living in and around them without any discernible damage. They are part of the natural balance and make your lawn a more interesting and rewarding place. Please also refrain from pulling their legs off!

Identification

If you have a problem you will notice one of three things:

  • Adult crane fly can be seen from late July to September. If you see a lot then be prepared for possible problems in the following year
  • Patches of lawn dry severely and the turf can be pulled or peeled up – look for larvae on or just below the soil surface
  • Lawn damage as the wildlife starts ripping and pulling grass, moss and thatch out of the lawn. Once again look for larvae on or just below the soil surface

If you suspect a problem peel back several patches of turf and if you have more than about 5 grubs per square foot then damage will more than likely occur. As there is no pesticide now available scarification, aeration and over seeding will be required after an attack to reduce the population and repair the lawn.

Birds will find them a tasty treat and may well invade the lawn in search of them. They will do little damage apart from pulling up moss so let them get on with it and clear the lawn of the root eating grubs.

If you do see grubs and they are a creamy colour with an orange brown head and have legs then you have chafers not leather jackets!

Dry Patch

Dry Patch in Turf

Strictly speaking grass or turf ‘dry patch’ is neither a disease nor a pest but more a ‘condition’ of the soil.

This is a summer or dry weather problem

Dry patch is where the soil has become water repellent and if a sample of soil is taken when the condition is obvious you will find it is snuff dry even after heavy rainfall. It may also have a musty smell and contain white specks of fungal growth similar to those in Type 1 fairy rings.

This water repellence causes a patchy network of drying brown grass amongst an otherwise green and healthy lawn. It is often associated with compaction and heavy thatch layers particularly in older lawns or turf on sandy soils. It will often occur near trees, along heavily trafficked areas or slopes. If the problem is particularly severe and occurs frequently during dry weather you should use tried and tested preventative measures. If you don’t manage to prevent occurrences then you’ll need to treat after the event which is harder but does work. Finally if the compaction goes deeper than a few inches you will need to replace the lawn to get rid of it.

Preventative Treatment

Spring Preparation

Ensure thatch is less than ½”. If it is more then it must be reduced. However, if you scarify the lawn you may need to over seed afterwards. This could be a problem on soil that is water repellent so if you do need to scarify I would recommend a deep scarify in the spring before the lawn starts drying out during the warmer drier months.

Next, the affected areas of lawn will definitely need aerating to allow water to penetrate. I would use a hollow tine fork aerator to open the turf up AND relieve compaction. If you have machinery, a lawn aerator or sandals you should spike the lawn afterwards as well. It should be noted that hollow tining in particular will increase drying of the lawn surface so be prepared to water if the weather is dry.

May Onwards

The penultimate step is to apply what is known as a ‘Wetting Agent’ to the lawn. Though this does not cure the water repellent nature of the soil it will enable water to penetrate more easily. You will need to apply wetting agent such as Lawnsmith® YUCCA WETTA normally once a month over 3 to 4 months to maintain water penetration. If you can maintain some shallow spiking prior to each application all the better.

Finally, good lawn care practices will continue to make improvements so keep the mowing on the high side to retain moisture, ensure a fertiliser containing potassium is used spring and/or autumn to help the grass plants moisture control mechanisms.

You should also be aware that dry patch will have taken several years to develop in the lawn and is not likely to be cured by this treatment. Therefore, you may well need to re-apply wetting agent plus spiking throughout the late spring and summer of the following year and then periodically as required.

For Existing Conditions

Once the lawn has dried to such a degree, usually after a long dry period it can often take until the following spring to re-wet - not a nice thought!

To speed the process of water penetration and therefore grass revival you should:

  • Spike the area densely – you don’t have to go deep and may not be able to due to the hardness of the soil. Just lots of rolling or stabbing of the lawn with a lawn aerator, sandals or garden fork to open channels for water to infiltrate
  • Water these areas of lawn for about five minutes a day for a few days. Heavy watering will just run off so a few minutes is all that is required at this stage.
  • Add wetting agent such as Lawnsmith® YUCCA WETTA
  • Water after a week if no rain appears
  • Repeat wetting agent and watering once a month until the lawn recovers. This will normally be 2 to 4 treatments. Additional spiking will also help.

If the dryness has left you with dead brown grass then you will need to remove this by raking and then re-seeding the area once you have managed to wet the soil. If this occurs past September wait until spring to seed and start treatment as for a preventative lawn procedure above.

View Aerators View Yucca Wetta

Fairy Rings

Fairy Rings exist all year round but generally are only obvious in summer or dry conditions. The cause and effects of lawn fairy rings and dry patch are similar though visually they are quite different.

There are three classes of fairy ring:

Type 1 Fairy RingType 1 Lawn Fairy Ring

This is the most common type of fairy ring and very evident in dry weather as a ring of dead grass bordered by healthy if not luxuriant green grass. The ring will often be colonised by moss and toadstools giving it the name ‘fairy ring’. If you take a sample of soil you will find it smells musty and will have ‘white specks’ of fungal growth within it.

This fungus causes the soil in the lawn to become water repellent and it is this factor that causes the grass to die off not the fungus attacking the grass plants. Once the ring has dried out it becomes very hard to re-wet and may only finally absorb water during the cold wet autumn winter period. This type of lawn fairy ring can be quite unsightly so it is worth a little effort to reduce the impact.

Remedy 1

Firstly, keep the area well spiked by using lawn aerator shoes, spiker and aerating roller or garden fork making sure to spike half a metre on either side of the ring. This will aid water penetration into the ring. Next apply a wetting agent. This helps to break down the water repellent nature of the soil. Finally water the area 5 to 10 days after treatment if no rain arrives.

This treatment is best done in spring prior to drying of the fairy ring. As it relieves the problem rather than killing the fungus the application of wetting agent needs to be repeated several times throughout the drier months of the year. It does work however, and as you only need to treat the ring it is not prohibitive nor of concern to the environment.

Once the lawn has started to respond to your treatment it will become viable again so before weeds colonise the area get some fertiliser in and either over seed or re-turf the surface.

Remedy 2

The treatment starts as above but then a fungicide needs to be applied. The best time is in the spring when the fungus is growing actively. This treatment will need to be done by a professional and as the fungicide is not cheap the cost is going to escalate. There is no guarantee one treatment will work either. I would advise sticking to Remedy 1 above.

Remedy 3

If the ring is so bad with little response from Remedy 1 then you have two choices. Dig the whole lot out going one metre deep and a half metre on either side of the ring. That’s a lot of soil to remove and replace! Alternatively, turn the area of the ring into a flower bed. The fungus does not like disturbed soil so will not grow in the flower bed.

Type 2 Fairy Ring Type 2 Grass Fairy Ring

This fairy ring is seen as a lush ring of very actively growing grass with or without toadstools. These rings are little understood with no known remedies. They can be masked to a certain degree by maintaining a good fertiliser and iron content. Image courtesy of the STRI.

Type 3 Fairy Ring

The simplest of them all. This fairy ring is just a ring of toadstools generally only obvious in spring or autumn in wet weather. There is no remedy though picking, brushing or mowing the fungi to prevent spore production will keep further crops under control.

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