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Handling The Heat And Grubs In June

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By : Fran Phalin    99 or more times read
With the unrelenting summer heat, it is important to give your lawn appropriate summer care. The focus for June should be on grubs, compost, irrigation, and water retention.

White Grubs

With over 100 species in Texas, grubs are very common in lawns. These white grubs, or grubworms, damage the turf by consuming roots and other underground plant parts. Lawns ravaged by grubs usually turn brown and severely damaged turf can be lifted up by hand or even rolled up from the ground like a carpet. The two specific types of grubs found in Texas that attack turf are the June beetle and southern masked chafer. Most grub damage occurs between summer and fall months, so right now is the perfect time for grubs to be found feeding on your lawn.

To tell when your lawn has been damaged by white grubs, look for irregular patches of weakened or dying grass in the lawn. The part of the turf that hasn't been as severely damaged will be more vulnerable to weeds and lawn diseases. Turfgrass that is damaged by white grubs have a reduced root system and can be easily pulled from the soil. Grubs can be easily found in the top few inches of soil, in the turfgrass root zone. Turfgrass usually recovers from white grub damage by fall or the following spring.

If your lawn has these symptoms, and before you start utilizing pesticides to kill off grubs, take a step back and evaluate your lawn situation. Sometimes, turf damage from lawn diseases can be mistaken for grub attack. Take-all Patch is commonly mistaken for white grub damage. Although the damage appears similar, Take-all Patch lasts throughout the summer. To confirm that your lawn does indeed have grub worms, examine a few soil sections of your turf, from at least three to four inches across and four inches deep. Examining different soil plugs in scattered areas of your lawn would also be a good idea as well as including areas at the edges of suspected grub damage. If you find more than five white grubs per square foot, you should seek treatment for your turf, fewer than five does not require treatment. Keep in mind that some lawns with high numbers of grubs may not show any damage.

Non-Chemical Treatment

Non-chemical treatments for controlling white grubs include using beneficial worms that attack white grubs and other pests that live in the soil. These nematodes can be purchased readily from gardening stores. The beneficial nematodes need enough moisture to help them move down into the soil where the grubs are located. When releasing and spraying the nematodes onto the lawn, use at least a quarter inch of water before and another quarter inch of water applied afterwards. The nematodes are not at all harmful to humans or plants in your garden and instead, serve as a green alternative to using pesticides.

Another non-chemical approach to dealing with grubs would be to use spiked sandals, which are mainly used for aerating turf. Experts say that repeatedly walking over turf that is heavily infested with grubs can reduce grub populations up to 50%. Spiked sandals can be purchased at garden supply stores.

Chemical Treatment

If no other approach works and you need to turn to chemical control, keep in mind that treatments need to be applied early on to kill smaller larvae of white grubs, which are less than half an inch long. Once white grubs mature into the third phase of their life, they become more difficult to control. Insecticides mostly used for grub control include imidacloprid and halofenozide. Imidacloprid is most effective against small and medium-sized grubs but may kill some grubs larger than half an inch long. The lethal effects of the insect growth regulator halofenozide are limited to early white grub life stages. Halofenozide is ineffective if applied too late, after grubs have reached the third phase or third-instar of their life.

Both of these insecticides should be applied in early to mid-June. Experts say in central and north Texas, early to mid-July is the best time for application. If you have turf areas where grubs have already caused significant damage, use products that are labeled for white grubs. Many products are still effective against white grubs, but post-treatment should still be utilized. To make sure that insecticide applications reach the root zone, water-in-liquid formulations with half an inch to one inch of water after application. It would be a good idea to irrigate granular formulations within 24 hours to create a better flow for the insecticide penetrating the soil and also to lessen the risk of exposure to humans and pets. If the soil is too moist, two or more irrigation applications may be needed. Also, water applied too quickly can cause run-off and loss of pesticide. Thatch buildup can also make it hard for insecticide applications to penetrate through to the soil.

Compost, Irrigation, and Water Retention

June is a good month for several major lawn care activities.

Homeowners should focus on some of the following this month:

- Composting: Applying compost to your lawn every 1,000 square feet. The best time to apply compost is two weeks after your last mowing.
- Irrigation/Water Retention: With the small amount of rainfall we get during Texas summers, it is a good idea to water any areas that you wish to remain green all summer. To determine the amount of water you are applying to the area, take a can and place it on the irrigated area. After fifteen minutes, you can see how much water has been applied to the area. To avoid run-off, make sure irrigation amounts do not exceed soil infiltration. Remember that for your lawn to be healthy and actively growing, turfgrass requires about one inch of water a week.
Fran Phalin is a freelance editor and writer specializing in home improvement topics. She is based in Austin, TX.

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