DEALING WITH LAWN PROBLEMS
Lawn problems fall into one of four categories:
- weeds or other plants competing with the grass for resources
- insects feeding on the grass
- plant diseases
- small animals digging up your grass to feed on insects or plants
Any of these can be found in your lawn to a small degree. They only become a problem if conditions change to favour their increase. Learn to manage pest problems by following integrated pest management (IPM) principles. IPM emphasizes prevention, and finding the most effective, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective way to manage a pest problem.
Healthy lawns are less likely to have weed problems. Thick grass smothers weeds and prevents their seeds from germinating.
Before using herbicides, try improving the general condition of your lawn by aerating, overseeding, and occasionally weeding by hand. Tolerating some weeds (like clover) is a no-cost, no-effort alternative to weed control.
Weeds could be a bigger problem in a newly seeded lawn that is not yet well established. Good planning and preparing the soil properly will reduce weed problems and promote quick growth of the lawn.
Some common insect pests found in home lawns include:
- chinch bugs
- white grubs
- sod webworms
Identify pest problems correctly
- Inspect your lawn often to detect pests and other problems early.
- Plant damage may not be caused by pests. Plants can be injured by poor growing conditions, poor maintenance practices, or environmental problems (like road salt or dog urine).
- You need to identify the pest to look up information that will help you decide how to control the pest and to prevent further problems. See Pest control tipsfor information about specific insect pests.
- Beneficial insects may be mistaken for pests. For example, ants are sometimes considered pests because they make visible mounds (ant hills) on lawns. But they do not attack the grass.
- In a healthy lawn, beneficial insects can keep pest insects in check. For more information on beneficial insects, see
- If you are having trouble, your local garden centre may be able to help you in identifying a pest, and there are many good sources of information on the Internet or in reference books.
Decide if action is needed
- A few weeds or insects in a healthy lawn may not be a cause for concern.
- Watch to see if the pest problem gets worse, and get more information before deciding whether action is needed.
Pest problems that keep coming back are often a sign that your lawn care practices need to change.
- Examine your lawn care program and your lawn’s condition to see if anything needs to be done differently.
- Improving your lawn care practices gives long-lasting results and reduces pest problems. See
Be aware of the types of conditions pests prefer so you can better prevent them:
- Chinch bugs prefer dry lawns with too much thatch.
- Adult beetles and chafers, the source of white grub infestations, prefer laying their eggs in short grass.
- Sod webworms prefer sunny south-facing slopes where it is hot and dry.
Lawn diseases can be hard to identify. They are often confused with other problems, like poor growing conditions, damage from fertilizer burn, dog urine, or road salt.
Some of the diseases that may occasionally affect your lawn include:
- powdery mildew
- necrotic ring spot
- dollar spot
- leaf spot
Good mowing and watering practices help to prevent lawn diseases. So does using a balanced fertilizer with enough potassium and not too much nitrogen. Removing thatch and increasing air flow near the surface are also common practices for controlling turfgrass diseases.
If you’re not sure about what action to take for a specific problem, call your local lawn care company for help.
Promote biodiversity in your yard by including a variety of plants and grass species in the landscape. A diverse landscape is better for the environment because it attracts birds, butterflies and other wildlife. It can be easier to maintain when the right plants are chosen to suit the conditions.
Just like in the soil, a good diversity of organisms in the landscape supports a healthier plant environment.
- Consider other plants that can make good ground covers, especially for shaded, dry or other difficult sites. Some of these are hosta, lily of the valley, creeping phlox, Japanese spurge, periwinkle, bugleweed, sweet woodruff, thyme and creeping juniper.
Experiment with native plants amd alternative landscapes such as mulched perennial beds or rock gardens. These are drought resistant and require less maintenance.
Avoid problems with animal pests by getting rid of potential food sources around your yard.
Moles and voles (field mice)
Small animals like moles and voles sometimes tunnel in your lawn in search of food. Tunnelling by moles exposes root systems. Then voles and other rodents move in and eat the roots.
Racoons and skunks
Raccoons and skunks generally dig up your lawn looking for white grubs and other insects. Once you’ve managed the insect pests, raccoons and skunks should no longer bother your lawn.