I’ve got a problem in my lawn and after some investigation I found lots of grubs under the turf. Is there a way to control them without chemicals? I don’t want my kids to be exposed to pesticides or herbicides if possible. I’d also like to make my grass look better, but I’m afraid of using anything which could hurt my children.
I’m glad to hear you don’t want to use chemicals in the lawn. You don’t need them to grow grass. In fact, it’s one of the greatest myths ever created by Madison Avenue. Nothing will outgrow grass… if it’s happy.
Let start with the grubs. Organic gardeners and chemical gardeners have the same problems, but use different solutions. There are two safe alternatives to the chemical pesticides used to kill grubs (they are nasty and should be avoided at all costs). Beneficial nematodes will kill the grubs quickly, but are a leap of faith for gardeners as they are microscopic. You might be able to find them at a good local nursery, but they are readily available online at places like Arbico (www.Arbico-Organics.com). The long-term solution is called milky spore, which specifically targets the grubs. It’s applied once and will last at least 10 years. Once the grubs are infected, the milky spore will spread exponentially and, after a few seasons or less, the grubs will be under control.
For the lawn in general, the first step is to get a soil test from your local county extension office. The test will tell you what the pH is and the fertility. Correct them organically, aerate every couple years in the fall and reseed in the spring. You might not create a perfect putting green, but you’ll have a nice looking, healthy lawn which your kids can run barefoot on without concern. More and more homeowners are realizing how easy grass can be to grow when they aren’t killing the soil life underneath with poisons. Check out www.SafeLawns.org for more help in growing an organic lawn.
Doug Oster, contributing editor
Doug is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Backyard Gardener (www.Post-Gazette.com/GardeningWithDoug) and co-host of The Organic Gardeners radio program on KDKA.