What you do to your lawn, and how you do it will have a big effect on pests in your lawn, and pests in your larger environment, including the ones that try to get inside. The major activity in lawn maintenance is mowing.
One of the largest and most critical areas to deal with in home pest prevention is the lawn.
The lawn is a place for show, a place for recreation, and a place where children usually have their first real contact with nature on a physical level. The addition of children and pets increases the importance of both controlling the pests and the nature of the control.
Mowing and pest prevention
Mowing is the one thing that if done properly, will yield the best bang for your buck where both your lawn, and pests are concerned. If all the other things are done reasonably well, this will make your lawn an oasis for you, and a hard target for pests.
Make sure that you start with a good mower, with sharp blades. Sharp blades cut the leaves of grass more smoothly, lessening the chance for disease, and adding to the overall appearance. A dull mower blade makes for a ragged cut, and makes mowing harder for you and your mower.
You should mow as often as possible, at least once a week during the growing season.
Reasons you should mow often:
- The more often you mow, the “tighter” your lawn will become, because the grass will start to grow laterally rather than upward. This will create a more resilient lawn with more competition for weeds.
- Mowing more frequently will allow you to lower your mowing height, providing less cover for insects, and less cover means fewer bugs.
- As a result of the tightening of the turf, it will be more durable as well. Mowing heavily trafficked areas more frequently can help to prevent those ugly bald spots in your lawn.
- Since there is less leaf blade to transpire water, the lawn will need less water, and irrigation can become less frequent.
- Less frequent irrigation will help to keep fungus and bugs from becoming a problem.
- The clippings you have will be smaller, and will degrade more quickly, putting more nitrogen and organic matter back into the soil, so less fertilizer is needed to keep the lawn green and healthy.
- Thatch, and the insects that use it for cover, will be less of a problem.
- The need for bagging will disappear.
- It will help your lawn to be more healthy, and healthy lawns ward off lawn disease bugs, weeds, and fungus, can withstand more traffic, and suffer less from insect damage, recovering more quickly when these problems do occur.
- You will have fewer weed problems, because they can’t go to seed between mowing opportunities, and because the weeds will be competing with a healthy opponent.
The more frequently you mow, the smaller the clippings, so they become easily available for your lawn to recycle into nutrients, and organic matter.
Mowing frequency and bagging
If you bag your lawns clippings, you are taking away as much as sixty percent of the lawns fertility, and depriving your lawn of organic matter and other benefits. Avoid bagging like your lawn depended on it. Leaving your clippings on your lawn, reduces the amount of waste going into landfills, adds nutrients and organic matter to your lawn can help save money on fertilizer, and promotes a healthier lawn. It just makes good sense!
Frequent mowing discourages pests, disease and fungus, and helps your lawn grass to grow laterally. There are many other benefits as well.
Cultivating, fertilizing, irrigating and pest prevention
The best defense against pests in your lawn, is a good healthy lawn. This information is designed to optimize your chances for reaching that goal.
Cultivating is something that doesn’t have to be done as often as the other items on our list, but it is highly important.
If you have a thatch build up, or compaction problems, aerifying, or verticutting will aid in keeping your lawn in good condition. Thatch hides insects and provides conditions which encourage insect reproduction. It also weakens the lawn grasses, deprives them of natural nutrients, and inhibits water intake.
If your lawn is in need of renovating, cultivation is essential. Top dressing could be a separate subject, but I mention it here because cultivation and top dressing are usually a collaborative efforts. Cultivating twice per year will have a positive impact on your law, and more frequent cultivation in high stress areas can work wonders. Avoid cultivating your lawn late in the fall. It will plant weed seed that would have otherwise rotted on the surface.
Getting the right amount of nutrients to your lawn is important. For the best fertilizer, follow the directions above about mowing, and don’t bag your clippings. Of course, you will want to add more fertilizer, so start with something like one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet of lawn space per application. Three applications per year should be sufficient.
Of course you will need to adjust this to the needs of your particular lawn. Most common lawn grasses can use as much as two pounds per thousand square feet, per application.
Some fertilizers use sulfur coated urea formaldehyde. The sulfur coating slows the release of nutrients, allowing for more time between applications. You can use these at higher levels, less frequently. If you use regular fertilizer, smaller doses at more frequent intervals are recommended.
Keeping your grass healthy requires making the right amount of water available. Too little and it desiccates, to much and it will languish and invite fungus, pests, and disease. I am not going to go into the details of precipitation rates, or evapotranspiration rates (yes, they are real terms) but you should watch your lawn. If it is soggy two hours after watering, you should probably back off the water a little. If it is dry at a depth of one inch, you should increase the watering.
If you have done everything else on the list right, the chances of having pest problems is greatly diminished. There can still be problems due to weather conditions, and other natural phenomena.