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Lawn care in early spring...



Animals digging up the lawn, crows congregating and pecking in the grass and shallow tunnels exposed after the snow melts are all signs that your lawn is the home for a rather large community of grubs. After a mild winter with only shallow ground frost, grub damage is a predictable and unfortunate problem.

The damage that you see is the result of animals feeding on grubs which are located just below the grass surface. The animals are most likely raccoons, skunks or moles. On the one hand they are controlling the grubs for you, but on the other they are causing even more extensive damage.

The life cycle of the grub begins with eggs laid in July by adult June Bugs, European Chafers or Japanese Beetles. Each species is slightly different, but for the purposes of control and management, they are all the same. The egg hatches and becomes a larva which feeds on grass roots. The larva go through a few "growth spurts", called instars, and become progressively bigger. They gradually move deeper in the soil in preparation for their overwintering location. When the soil warms in the spring, the grubs move closer to the surface and change into their final adult stage. It is then that we need to brace ourselves for the sights and sounds of the rather heavy and ungainly insects bumping and attaching themselves to our window screens.

The time to control grubs is when they are small larva residing close to the surface in late July until mid-August. They are difficult to control as adults because adults escape the spray by flying away. They are also difficult to control when they are large, such as in early spring.

Even though it is tempting to treat for grubs at the sight of damage in early spring, it is not a wise decision. The best advice would be to plan on treating for grubs in the summer when the next generation has begun. Treatments range from granular fertilizer & insecticide combinations, insecticide sprays containing Dursban or Diazinon and, biologically or organically with parasitic nematodes. Control can be very difficult because the grubs are located beneath the thatch layer of the turf and the insecticide or nematodes needs to make their way through this layer to contact and kill the grub. Water extensively after the treatment has been applied to move the control product down to the feeding sites. Insecticides tend to be unpleasant products to work with, so you can always hire a professional lawn care company to come and spray the lawn for you.

To repair the lawn from grub damage you will need to spread seed or lay sod. Your choice will depend upon the extent of the damage. Seeds will be slow to germinate in early spring because the soil is still cool. During the time of soil exposure, weed seeds will have the opportunity to invade so hand or chemical broadleaf weed control will be necessary later on in the spring. The benefits of choosing seed, however, are the ability to select the type of grass (fescues, rye, Kentucky Bluegrass or a mixture of these), the low cost and the ease of handling. Sod will provide an immediate solution to the bare ground but is made up of only Kentucky Bluegrass which will only thrive in sunny locations, is more expensive and requires a bit more handling.

An alternative to all of the above would be to change your damaged lawn into an ornamental or vegetable garden. With a reduced food supply, grubs will become less of a problem in the future.

If your lawn did not suffer from grub damage, your early spring lawn care will be much more pleasant. Raking the lawn, with a leaf rake, will remove any debris which collected over the winter and will give the lawn an overall tidier appearance. Be sure to add the collected organic debris to the compost. With the warmer air temperatures, the compost will be very active and ready to consume any new additions to the pile.

If you didn't fertilize the lawn in late fall, apply a fertilizer with a high percentage of slow release nitrogen, such as 24-4-8 with IBDU, in early May. The slow release IBDU nitrogen will metre out the nitrogen evenly and prevent too much top growth and too much mowing.


Daisy Moore, 1999.



Other spring garden tips:

(click on the tip you want to read)


Designing Gardens

Fertilizing the Garden
Ready for Spring
Starting Seeds Indoors
Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Dormant Spraying
Planning the Vegetable Garden
Planting Early Vegetables
Early Season Care of Perennial Beds
Plants for an Early Spring Show
Cut Flowers for the Home Garden
Growing the Perfect Potato
Lawn Care in Early Spring.....GRUB DAMAGE!
Spring Lawn Care
The Garden in May
Gardening with Native Plants
Sources of Native Plants
Shade Gardening
Planting Gladiolus and Other Summer Flowering Bulbs
Weed Control
Thatch in Lawns
Weeds or Wildflowers
Improving Your Soil
Marvellous Mulch
Selecting and Planting Shrubs
Planting Trees and Shrubs
Window Box Gardening
Growing Tomatoes
Fertilizing the Vegetable Garden



Home  |  Garden designs  |  Naturalized gardening  |  Help with your garden  |  Garden Tips Spring  Summer  Fall  | Contact Daisy


Daisy Moore 2005