Fall Grass Work
Garden Clippings for September 2, 2017
Like clockwork. On August 22, the Japanese Beetles disappeared. They arrived on July 19 and bothered us for 34 days. The last beetle keeled over a week ago Tuesday, at around 8:30 in the evening.
Okay, perhaps it was not quite so precise. But Japanese beetles do indeed follow their life cycle with amazing predictability.
The adult beetles’ final act before croaking was to lay eggs. The eggs remain as eggs for a predictable two weeks, after which they hatch and immediately begin munching on grass roots. But because they are so tiny, they will initially do no noticeable damage.
As the beetles grow, so does their appetite. By late fall they are large and hungry enough to do considerable damage, but instead of eating they bury themselves deep into the soil to protect themselves from cold weather. I am told they can find their way 18 inches below the grass.
In spring, as early as March, the beetles emerge and eat their hearts out. Grass is killed, and skunks and racoons often create holes in the lawn in search of juicy grubs. In the third week of July, with amazing predictability they become adults, munch on plants, mate, lay eggs and the cycle continues.
Japanese beetles in both adult and grub form are difficult to control. Putting beetle traps in the back corner of the yard will reduce populations considerably. The wisest time of the year to tackle the grubs is early fall when grubs are tiny and most vulnerable.
Nematodes are your and my best solution for grub control. Nematodes are naturally occurring tiny organisms that actually eat grubs and stop them in their tracks. NIC (Natural Insect Control), Ontario’s premier grower of nematodes, has a few recommendations for application success. Apply in evening or morning when the sun is down. Apply nematodes on wet soil because they cannot move in search of grubs when soil is dry. Do not apply when weather is hot and store in the fridge until you are ready to apply.
Not only is early fall a good time to control grubs, but it is a good time to do any grass repair. Whether putting down sod or sowing grass seed, fall’s cool weather, increased rainfall and cool evenings with heavy morning dew will do wonders for growing good grass.
When sowing grass, take time to scratch or work up the soil to create a good seed bed. Broadcast the seed at the rate of 1 kg of seed applied over 500 square feet of area. Grass seed is inexpensive, so don’t be afraid to apply a little extra.
Choose your lawn seed with care. Use a Canada #1 seed mix to guarantee a nearly 100% germination rate. You will probably want a blended mix comprised of Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Rye, and Creeping Fescues. I don’t recommend using expensive coated seed. Beware of seed that contains cheap Annual Ryegrass and beware of any seed mix that does not list their ingredients.