How to protect your lawn from pests
Yes, pests exist in UK gardens in all shapes and sizes and can end up enjoying your lawn much more than you do if left to their own devices.
As with most things, prevention is better than a cure, but sometimes these things can happen unexpectedly, no matter what you do. So, we’ve got two methods for you – what to do before to prevent pests, and what you can do after should these tenants take up unruly residency in your lawn.
Worms in your lawn is usually a sign that the soil is incredibly fertile, so on first sight of these little fellas you may feel a great sense of accomplishment – and you should! Yet they can leave casts on the top of your lawn, that may look unsightly and ruin your hopes of achieving the ‘perfect’ lawn. Earthworms do more good than harm, so there are no existing pesticides than can be used on them. If there were, we also wouldn’t recommend these. These critters are often intrinsic to your lawns growth system by improving drainage and recycling your soils nutrients throughout the lawn. If you do find that you are regularly seeing worm casts on your lawn, here’s what you can do to lessen this:
Remove clippings from your lawn after mowing – clippings are organic matter that once broken-down return to the soil and make it even more fertile. Earthworms love fertile soil so they won’t move on to the next lawn if you keep providing them with the best conditions possible.
Where worm casts have formed, simply brush them away (when they are dried out, they will make a mess if brushed when wet). Then apply a product containing sulphur– this increases the acidity of the soil without harming the worms, worms aren’t big fans of acidic soil so this will act as future deterrent. The RHS recommends a product called Cast Clear. We would not recommend applying this product and changing the pH of your soil unless you know what you are doing, or you have the help of a professional. You can get your soil pH professionally tested if its of a a concern.
They may sound like a cool rock band, but actual leatherjackets are anything but. They thrive in poorly drained lawns. Leatherjackets are grubs that hatch from eggs laid by crane fly’s (daddy-long-legs) and can cause grass to yellow or turn brown as they feed on the roots and stems of blades. You may realise you have a leatherjacket problem if you see these yellow patches or starlings pecking at your soil looking for their next grubby meal!
Leatherjackets like poor draining soil, so regular aeration is a great way to improve the drainage of your soil and deter these little blighters from making an appearance, it’s also a good habit to get into if you find your lawn regularly has water sitting on the top after it rains, or if its susceptible to flooding
Nematodes are bacterial worms that will naturally kill off leatherjackets. Whilst they wouldn’t naturally occur in your own lawn, if added they will decrease the number of leatherjackets within your soil. It is important to ensure you have the right nematodes for your pest – the Steinernema feltiae nematode will take care of your leatherjackets, so when looking for a product, make sure this is the nematode you’re purchasing.
If you dig over your lawn and find these little chunky cream coloured grubs in your lawn, you’ll be sure that they’ve been having an absolute blast in your lawn eating away at the roots of your grass. If they’re working away on your lawn, you’ll notice your lush green grass turn to into big brown tufts that you can easily pull out yourself. If they’re really rife, you’ll have badgers and foxes digging up parts of your lawn to get at them. Then it’s a real pest party!
Most lawn pests can be avoided when a lawn is regularly maintained – this means regular feeding, mowing, aeration, weed and moss removal as well as watering. Chafer grubs don’t want to be disturbed either, so if you’re regularly out and about on your lawn – they’ll gravitate away from these cramped conditions.
There is a specific nematode species that can be used to combat chafer grubs – these are called Heterorhabitis bacteriophora, so be sure to look out for this name when purchasing the product. This introduces a natural predator to the chafer grubs and will lessen their population in your lawn.
You’ll know you have moles in your lawn when big mounds start to appear where picture perfect stripes once were. Long raised ridges mean you’ve got company in your lawn that probably wasn’t invited! Moles are quite rare in most lawns but can become a bit of a nuisance as they are very hard to catch and can make a lawns surface uneven.
When we say ‘moles’, if you have heaped mounds on your lawn they are likely the work of one very busy mole – moles are territorial, so they don’t travel in packs. It is difficult to prevent a mole from entering your lawn but mowing often and having a lot of traffic disturbs them and will deter them from using their lawn as their hunting grounds. If one mole mound should appear, you can apply netting to the top of your lawn to prevent them from digging up to the surface and creating their mounds.
Moles can be trapped, but these are inhumane traps that cause loss of life and are not something we recommend. Whilst mole mounds can be unsightly, moles are largely harmless and are under basic protection through the Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996. If you consider moles to be a serious issue in your lawn, contact the RSPB to see what harmless deterrents you can put in place first. There are no legal poisonous products that can be issued to non-professionals to decimate moles.
Female dogs may have the sweetest faces, temperament and all-round good nature – but they definitely have the peskiest pee. Whilst female dog wee isn’t any different to that of a male dog, because they squat when they pee instead of spreading as a male dog does, the concentrate of the nitrogen in their urine is particularly damaging and will cause patches to appear in your lawn.
When your furry friends take a trip to the bathroom, use water to dilute the wee. This will help to lessen the effect it has on your lawn. You can also try natural methods like dog rocks, or cordon off an area for your dog to use as their own little en suite.
The only way to cure these spots is to repair your lawn – apply some top soil, seed and water for these areas to get back to their best and be wee-free. Find our guide on how to repair your lawn here.
Bees / Wasps Nest
Here at The Grass People, we’re a big fan of bees so under no circumstances would we call them ‘pests’ – however, they can sometimes be in awkward places in and around your house or garden and will cause issues if they are annoyed or irritated by human interference – and rightly so! Mind your business, and the bees will too.
If the bee nest is out of your way, it is not doing any harm and should be left alone. Bees will not sting unless they are provoked. There is no real prevention for bees creating nests – they pick a suitable spot and set up home, and if they’re in your garden within eyes view – lucky you!
If you feel the nest needs to be reallocated, it is best to locate a swarm collector through the British Bee Keepers Association, who will safely and securely move the nest to somewhere better for the yourself and the bees. Do not try to remove a bee nest yourself.
As for wasps, they are again harmless unless they have been provoked in some way. If you need a wasp nest removed, contact your council who can do this for you. Unless you are a professional, under no circumstances should you attempt to remove a wasp nest yourself.