Lawn grubs of spring now beetles of summer

Mike McGrath, wtop.com

Matt near Columbia, Md. writes: “I discovered quite a few grubs when I tilled the soil this spring. That, plus some patches of dead grass, make me wonder if I have a grub problem that needs addressing. I was thinking about trying nematodes, a microscopic organisms that are natural predators of grubs. Or would you recommend another method?”

Beneficial nematodes are the safe and effective grub control of choice, Matt. But you would have needed to water them into your lawn much earlier in the season – as soon as the soil was warm enough to support them. It would be a waste of money right now, as the adult beetles are already emerging, which means there are no grubs currently in the soil.

Instead, I suggest you cool your heels and plan to apply Milky Spore disease, another all-natural grub control, to your lawn in late August, when the next generation of grubs will be feeding on the roots of your grass. Get the timing right and one Milky Spore treatment will knock out those grubs and inoculate your lawn against future infestations for decades.

NOTE: If you fail to apply Milky Spore this fall, don’t try and make up for it in the spring. Milky Spore disease only works when the soil is warm and the grubs are actively feeding, which only occurs from around mid-August through mid-October.

Proper lawn care can prevent grubs

It’s very easy to prevent this year’s female beetles from laying fresh grub eggs in your turf. All you have to do is keep the grass cut at three inches or higher and let it dry out between waterings. (Never water your lawn for short periods of time every day or even every other day – only for long periods of time once or twice a week – and only in the morning. Never in the evening.)

Female beetles always look for scalped, wet turf to lay their eggs. They won’t fight their way through a thick, lush, properly cut turf, and they won’t lay their eggs in dry ground. And a three-inch cut and infrequent watering will help your grass resist summer stress as well.

Buy your slugs a (cheap) beer

Patricia in Greenbelt, Md. writes: “My organic veggies are up and growing, but I caught slugs on the beans. I heard about your beer suggestion and bought the cheapest, “Latrobe’s Finest.” (Any Penn Stater will know what I mean.) Well, this morning I found five dead drunken slugs in the beer!”

Good work, Patricia. Beer traps are a great way to identify slugs as the culprit when plant damage occurs overnight. The slugs are attracted to the beer, then overcome by the alcohol when they crawl in. To get the best results, put out small containers of fresh beer at sunset – not stale beer and not during heat of the day. In the morning, the containers will be filled with slugs if the little slimers were anywhere nearby.

Toss the bodies and beer into the woods and put out a fresh batch every evening until the problem is under control. Slugs won’t go near day-old beer. (Nor will I!)

Mold in wood mulch; cedar is not immune

Dave in Dumfries, Va. writes: “We put a ‘cedar blend’ mulch down this year. We’ve used cedar in the past with no problems, but began to notice pieces of black mold appearing in the mulch and decided it was one of the nuisance fungi you’ve discussed. We removed the mulch, but are there other steps we should take, like treating the area with something? Plus, we’re considering using pine fines to replace the cedar, and would appreciate your thoughts and guidance.”

Everyone who uses these foolish wood mulches will eventually experience mold or fungal issues, Dave, it’s just a matter of time. Some folks get fungi-ed their first year; some not until after a decade of mulching, but sooner or later it happens to everyone who mulches with wood or bark. Luckily, removing the mulch ends the mold problem. No further action is necessary.

And the pine fines sound … well, fine.

Garlic harvest guidelines

Time for all good garlic growers to keep a close eye on their stinking rose beds … its harvest time. (At least it is if about one-third of your garlic plants are turning brown.)

Now, different varieties of garlic mature at different times, the location of the patch can make a difference and everything seems to be coming in early this season. So if the leaves of your plants have some brown showing, pull up a test plant and check it out. If it looks like a big leek, wait another week. (Wash the ‘baby garlic’ well and chop it up for use in a garlic flavored dish.)

But if the underground bulb is fully formed and covered with a nice tight paper wrapper, harvest away. Pull the garlic out of the ground slooowly and carefully, and then cure it for a week or so in a cool, dry airy location … on a screened porch under a ceiling fan would be ideal. Don’t dry the bulbs in the sun or wash them. Any dirt will brush off easily once the bulbs are dry.

And do not wait too long to harvest. If garlic isn’t harvested promptly, the wrappers will split open and the cloves will be ruined.

Garlic harvested late looks like George Washington’s old dentures.

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