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Gardening with George Weigel

Answers to your gardening questions and other tips by George Weigel.

Last Build Date: Fri, 30 Sep 2016 15:00:47 UTC

Copyright: Copyright 2016

Grub damage, weed-fighting, houseplant-moving: This Weekend in the Garden

Thu, 18 Aug 2016 14:06:12 UTC


This weekend's yard jobs include dealing with grub damage in the lawn, getting rid of perennial weeds that otherwise will overwinter in the yard, and getting tender houseplants back inside before it gets too cold. Grubs-in-the-lawn time Dealing with grub damage to the lawn is a given around here. Some years are worse than others, and trouble is often spotty with some people having terrible outbreaks while others see none. But we always have some damage - even in years like this when Japanese beetles seemed to be less widespread than usual this summer. Japanese beetle population in July is an indicator of how bad grub lawn damage might be in fall because Japanese beetles lay eggs that hatch into those fat, white, C-shaped, worm-like critters that eat our lawn roots in September. Two curve balls, though: 1.) Japanese beetles aren't the only beetles that produce those root-eating grubs, and 2.) even a few beetle grubs can cause thinning that can then open your lawn to increased weed problems later. When you get more than five or six grubs in a square foot of turfgrass, that's when the patches can go from thin to dead. Pieces pull up like carpet. Some lawn owners deal with this annual threat by putting down grub-preventing chemicals in the lawn each June. Imidacloprid (Merit) is most common and kills a majority of grubs once they hatch and start eating the insecticide-laced roots. If you didn't do that and are now seeing grub damage, you have six options: 1.) Live and let live. Just pull up the dead grass and put down new grass seed. Violent variation: smash as many grubs as you can before reseeding. See last week's PennLive garden column for more on how to fix lawns. 2.) Go with the flow. Capitalize on the free grass removal and replace the bare space with new garden beds. You'll reduce future mowing and encourage beetles to feed on someone else's lawn from now on. 3.) Go long-term organic. Put down milky spore disease, a bacterium that affects only Japanese beetle grubs. It's non-polluting, lasts 10 to 20 years and is harmless to pets, people, earthworms, fish, etc. But it's expensive, not 100 percent effective and useless if you have beetles other than the Japanese variety. 4.) Go short-term organic. Put down microscopic grub-eating organisms called "nematodes." These feed on grubs once they hit the ground, but you have to apply them early each fall. If you can't find them locally, two online sources are Gardens Alive and Buglogical. 5.) The "give-me-something-deadly-now" approach. Apply quick-acting chemical insecticides Dylox (trichlorfon) or Sevin (carbaryl). These kill young grubs - as well as most other living things in the soil. 6.) Procrastinator special. Go watch a football game and worry about fixing the dead lawn next spring. Kill and stop those weeds Wild strawberry is one of many perennial weeds that will survive winter and spread if you don't control it.George Weigel  Not a lot of new weeds come up this time of year, but fall is one of the best times to control perennial weeds - the ones that come back year after year. Early to mid fall is when perennial weeds such as plantain, mugwort, bindweed and wild strawberry step up the storage of carbohydrates in their roots, drawing on the sugars manufactured in the leaves. Translation: There's a lot of movement from leaf to root, so if you spray an herbicide such as glyphosate (Roundup) on the leaves now, it'll be better carried there, too. Broad-leaf herbicides that kill broad-leaf weeds but not grass also can be used on the lawn now. Of course, you could also dig out weeds - roots and all. That works any time of year. Keep in mind that whether you kill a weed or yank it, the action leaves behind a bare spot that can invite a new weed. The solution is to immediately replant with something you'd rather have there (i.e. perennials or groundcovers in garden beds or new grass seed in a lawn). If you beat weeds to the punch with your plant of choice, ther[...]

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