Wally Richards – Lawn Care & Pests

Autumn is the time to look to your lawns and do a bit of work as needed.

Thatch is a problem in most lawns and needs to be removed. It is the buildup of debris on the surface of the soil and when thatch is left to build up, it can cause all sorts of problems for a lawn.

There are three ways you can clear thatch from your lawn.

  • The first is to use a scarfing rake which has sharp tines – but it’s a lot of hard work if you have a big lawn.
  • The second is to hire a motorized scarifier which is expensive but great if you are going to oversow your lawn.
  • The third way is to spray the lawn with Thatch Busta. Easy and very effective if you follow the instructions.

There are a number of lawn pests around and autumn is a good time to deal to them.  Grass grubs or the grubs of the Black Beetle are active in the soil near the surface in the autumn until early winter dependant on where in NZ you are.

The cycle for the pests goes something like this: the adult beetles emerge in late spring through early summer and cause foliage damage to a number of garden plants.  During their life of several weeks, they lay eggs deep in lawns and sometimes in gardens all of which later hatch out baby grubs. These grubs eat their way to the surface, feeding on the roots of the grasses and sometimes other plants.  If the soil becomes too dry they hibernate till the moisture level increases, then they start off again feeding. There can be grubs present in the soil anytime of the year but the main lot are normally near the soil surface in autumn. Once they finish their last instar they go down deep to pupate and then emerge as a beetle in the spring summer period.There are two periods when controls are most effective on the pests, the first is when they are   beetles. The beetles emerge about sunset and are active in the early part of the evening. If you have a lighted window facing out across a lawn you will likely hear the beetles hitting the window as they are attracted to the light.

Use this method to catch and destroy hundreds of beetles. Place a trough under the window and fill to two thirds with water and then pour a little kerosene onto the water. Place a strong light inside the window and turn it on as dusk falls. The light will attract beetles and after hitting the window, fall into the trough below where the kerosene prevents them from climbing out.
Next day scoop out the beetles and flush down the toilet or feed to the chickens. This is the cheapest and most effective method of dealing to the pests.

The other way to deal with pests in autumn is when they are grubs and near the surface of the soil.  There are two treatments that you can apply to lawn areas where the grubs are, but first you should lift some turf to find out if there are grubs present and how many per square foot.  It’s a waste of time if there is none or only a few per square foot. If you have a good number then a treatment is worthwhile.
One treatment is organic and will not hurt pets, children or wildlife and the other is chemical and should not be used if you have concerns for children, pets or alternatively have a no entry period of several days or longer.

The natural treatment involves a product made of eucalyptus and tea tree oils called Professor Macs 3 in 1 for Lawns. The two litre container treats 100 square metres of lawn.
It not only kills any lawn pests without undue harm to worms, it also feeds the lawn and provides a wetting agent.  A great safe product to use.

The chemical treatment is called Lawn Pest Control and is a granule poison that is spread over the lawn with a Scotts Spreader at the rate of 2 grams per square metre. The same product can be used to kill nests of wasps or ants in the soil.

Another lawn pest that can be active anytime of the year is the native porina caterpillar.
These are a greasy looking caterpillar that lives in the soil in a burrow and comes up in the early evening to feed on the base of your grasses or other plants. The entrance hole is similar to a earthworms hole and will give you an indication the pest is in your gardens. They are an easy pest to control with the use of Neem Tree Oil.

After mowing your lawn spray the grasses with the Neem Oil at 15mils per litre or apply with a lawnboy. Do this late in the day so when the pests come out to feed that evening they will get a dose of Neem Oil and never eat again. As the porina can be present anytime of the year then treatment should be applied when the damage is noticed.

Dry spots in your lawns or brown areas that do not accept water: often the grass around the dry area is nice and green as the water runs off and penetrates there. During dry times the soil builds up surface tension that prevents water from rain or hoses penetrating causing patches of lawn to go brown. The easy remedy for this is to take your dish washing liquid and add it to a watering can of warm water. Lather up with your hands and then pour the soapy water over the dry areas. This will break surface tension and allow water to penetrate.

The only other tip to give you on lawns at this time is to ensure that you don’t mow your lawn too low, it weakens the grass and allows weeds to grow.


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