Organic Grub Control

On Friday I talked all about the chemical means of grub control.  There are organic means of grub control (thank goodness) should you have the time and patience for them.  Unfortunately, they are not quite so good as many of our other sustainable gardening practices.  Nevertheless, that does not mean they should not be discussed.

The gold standard in grub control–which has been around since the days of Rachel Carson and Silent Spring, if you can believe it–is Milky Spore.  Milky Spore is a bacterium that is sold as a powder (you can already see why some folks might shy away.)  Fortunately that bacterium is harmless to everything but Japanese beetle grubs.  Unfortuntely, Japanese beetle grubs are not the only grubs that infest our lawns so that is one of the drawbacks to milky spore as a control.

As a control, it is quite easy to use.  The powder is mixed with water, put into a hose-end sprayer and the lawn is sprayed at the time that the young grubs are actively feeding.  This is usually late August in my region.  Again, a drawback is that it is fairly expensive compared to the chemical controls.  That, coupled with the fact that it doesn’t kill all the grubs in the lawn has made it a fairly unpopular rememdy (sadly).

There are several other types of remedies on the market as well, sold in various places by different manufacturers.  Most consist of trying to boster the health of the lawn by introducing beneficial nemetodes.  The nematodes seek out and attack and kill the grubs.  Several extensions services do recommend the nematodes so I think that these may be a viable alternative.

What are nematodes? Well, they’re just slightly less creepy than milky spore.  They are microscopic fungi, alternative described as worms.  Again, they are available in bags, in a dried powdered form that is mixed in water and applied with a hose end sprayer.

Safer has a ready to spray grub control product (I can’t imagine how that could be cost effective) with the active ingredient being Neem.  Neem works by interrupting the feeding cycle of the insect.  I’m not certain how well it would penetrate the soil, though–that one makes me a little skeptical.  Woodstream also has this same product available in a bottle that attaches to a hose.

Finally, I’ve seen other bloggers recommending those “lawn shoes” worn to aerate the lawn and the rakes that de-thach the lawn.  Certainly anything that improves the health of the lawn is going to help keep grubs at bay.  The Spoiler is a huge fan of the de-thaching rake.  Do I think that’s what’s keeping the grubs at bay?  No–I still say it’s my birds.

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