The principles that guide organic pest-control are simple: try to make the lawn unattractive to pests and attractive to beneficial plants, animals, and insects. Wonderful ideas; the problem is, how to put them into practice without going back to school for four years for a combined degree in soil science and entomology. |
The simplest way to control pests of any kind (insects, weeds, fungi) is to grow a healthy lawn. That may sound too easy, but it's true. You'll never eliminate all the harmful weeds and bacteria and insects from your lawn any more than you'll eliminate ALL the disease-bearing bacteria from your home. The goal is for you and your yard to be healthy enough so that the ones that are around can't make either of you sick.
Pesticide use for lawn care has become an issue in many communities across New Zealand, due to an increased awareness of the potential impact that human activities can have on our shared environment.
Prevent pest problems from occurring by:
Providing good soil, with ample depth and organic matter Choosing the right mixture of grasses for the conditions Making long-term changes, such as improving drainage in wet areas or replacing lawns with other types of landscaping.
So don't give pests an opportunity. Make sure your lawn is properly watered and your grass is growing in good, healthy soil. Choose grass that will grow well in your climate -- that alone will make your lawn more pest resistant than trying to grow a water-hungry variety in a water-starved area like parts of Arizona, New Mexico or Nevada.
Maintaining a healthy lawn does an enormous amount in itself to attract beneficial organisms and hold harmful ones in check. A healthy organic lawn encourages earthworms, micro-organisms, butterflies, and the lace-wings, lady-bugs, and other insects that eat lawn and garden pests. A thick lawn doesn't have many spaces in which weeds can establish themselves, and it's generally able to beat back incursions from the fungi that always exist in the soil -- just as a healthy person doesn't get a cold every week of the year, even though cold-causing viruses are always around.
If your lawn does get some sort of infestation or disease, consider what it is and why it finds your yard such a nice place to hang out. Repeated visits from moles or other tunneling creatures suggest that they're finding plenty of grubs in your grass. They're certainly eating something; they wouldn't bother to come by otherwise. Get rid of the grubs, and the moles will go elsewhere.
Here's an overview of natural pest control techniques:
For diseases: Many diseases thrive in thatch; make your lawn less attractive to them by removing the thatch layer.
Many fungi (the cause of most lawn diseases) get a foothold when a lawn is either over- or under-watered. Maintain steady, adequate moisture to keep diseases at bay.
For insects: Again, keep thatch under control.
Pick bugs off your lawn by hand. Obviously this will work only with a small infestation of large bugs, but it's often worth trying before you reach for a big insecticidal gun.
Natural herbal pest repellents such as garlic and hot pepper sprays will repel many insects. Combine the repellent with water in the blender and then strain out the fiber. Or use insecticidal soaps, effective against many problematic insects.
Traps, which allow the pest to "check in but not check out" can effectively control wasps and a number of other pests. Put these traps on the periphery of your lawn so the pests will be disarmed before -- rather than after -- they dine on your tasty lawn, flowers and shrubbery.
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