Lawn Care

The 5 Best Insects For Your Lawn And Garden

Not all bugs are bad news: These natural predators will protect your plot from harmful insects

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If you think of insects as the enemy of a healthy landscape, you couldn’t be more wrong. Sure, nobody welcomes Japanese beetles, aphids, or other backyard pests. But rather than trying to create a bug-free zone, the best strategy is to fight fire with fire. Encouraging certain insects to inhabit your property can help fend off the unwelcome ones. For the health of your plants and yourself, skip chemicals.

Fill your garden with a wide variety of plants, which will create a rich environment for local insects. Have faith that a tangled organic garden is your best defense. There are so many wild beneficial insects out there; even in big cities they will fly to your garden if properly attracted. Read on to find out how to attract these natural helpers.

Here are the 5 best bugs for your lawn or garden and how to attract them:

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Assassin Bugs

Don’t be intimidated by the name; these are the good guys. Lure these predators to your garden for protection against thrips, spider mites, caterpillars, and other plant-eating insects. Adults are typically brown or black with flat bodies and a distinct cover behind their head. Get them to settle down in your terrain, and typically you’ll find a new generation of assassin bugs targeting and eliminating your insect enemies. And you don’t even have to disclose their activities to Congress.

How to attract them

Give them shelter. Make sure your yard includes bunch grasses, shrubs, and other permanent plantings, which will give assassin bugs and other predator bugs the cover that they crave.

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Lady Bugs

A favorite design choice for makes of kids’ clothing, the actual insect is as helpful as it is attractive. Welcome these colorful critters into your patch of grass to feast on aphids, mealybugs, scales, and other soft-shelled troublemakers. Adults can be orange or red in color, with the familiar black-spotted shells. Larvae are black with orange spots, typically fat and ½ inch long.

How to attract them

These beetles are such a popular beneficial insect that you can order batches of them online. But it’s not worth the hassle for the home gardener, since you may end up with a type that’s not a good match for your area. The home gardener is better off attracting native species. Insects are particular. Plants that ladybug beetles like include cornflower and golden marguerite.

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Ground Beetles

These bugs may scatter when disturbed, but they’re actually your lawn’s best friends. The big black or brown rounded beetles usually hide under logs or rocks in cool, dark areas. Beetles will protect your grass by feasting on slug eggs, maggots, and snails.

How to attract them

Make them feel at home. Creating a comfortable habitat for ground beetles will attract more of them to your property. Plant perennial ground covers, and place stones or logs around to create the damp, dark environment that ground beetles love.

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Hover Flies

These beelike bugs are great natural predators to have in your garden. Adults are between 1/3 and ½ inch long. While the flies look similar to yellowjackets or bees, with black and yellow bands across their body, a closer look reveals they have two wings instead of four. (They’re also big on hovering in one spot, hence the name.) Attract adults to your garden with plants rich in pollen and nectar, such as mustard or buckwheat. Larvae will attack aphids, mealybugs, and other harmful insects—a single young hover fly maggot can eat 400 aphids before adulthood.

How to attract them

Plant some herbs. Along with pollen-rich flowers, fill in your garden with smaller flowers, so beneficial bugs won’t drown in larger pools of nectar. All herbs like dill, coriander, cilantro, and thyme are great for beneficial bugs because they produce very small flowers and grow narrowly without competing with other plants. Cilantro, dill, and sweet alyssum are particularly attractive to hover flies.

Lacewings

Lacewing larvae feed on aphids, moth eggs, caterpillars, and mites. Look for the distinctive long delicate wings on these slender-bodied bugs. Larvae are typically grayish with narrow thoraxes and long jaws. Green lacewings can produce up to four generations each year.

How to attract them

Mix modest with showy. Ornamental flowers look great, but have less pollen than smaller, modest-looking plants. Roses don’t have any pollen, they’re just for show. So be sure your garden includes low-growing sweet alyssum and some of the herbs and plants listed above to provide the pollen that lacewings and other beneficial bugs are looking for, she suggests.

Five easy tips for a beautiful lawn

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The green, green grass of home… A beautiful lawn is one of the most desired features in gardens all around the world. Here are five useful tips to help you in your hunt for the perfect lawn.

The outdoors season has truly begun and it’s time to enjoy that beautiful lawn of yours. A lawn that will be the pride and joy of the neighborhood and stay lush and green if cared for properly. To help you with this we’ve assembled a list of important things to have in mind:

1. Cutting

Regular cutting of the lawn is important because it thickens the grass. Regarding the cutting technique: Little and often is better than all in one go. Switch directions and patterns each time you mow, so that the grass blades aren’t pressed in the same direction every time. For each cut, the rule of thumb is to shorten the grass by around half to two-thirds to approximately 5 centimeters. In the middle of the summer, you might want to keep the grass a little longer, as it withstands periods of drought better.

2. Fertilizing

Cutting the grass removes nutrients from the grass, nutrients that have to be replaced in order to achieve  healthy growth. So, from the beginning of spring, you should fertilize the lawn every four or five weeks. Nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous are necessary and mixes of special lawn fertilizers are readily available at your local garden retailer. How much to use is carefully indicated on the packages.

3. Watering

If you want a lawn that is lush and green all summer, watering is important. How often you need to water your lawn depends on temperature and humidity. When the grass needs water, it will begin to take on a blue-gray tint, and the older grass blades on the lawn will begin to curl up or wilt. If you have planted a new lawn, you will usually need to water once a day so the seeds can germinate and a good solid root system can form.
Nowadays the watering of the lawn can be achieved with a minimum of hassle. You can water
your garden by hand, partially or fully automatically. GARDENA’s product range comprises of mobile and stationary watering solutions as well as pumps and watering controls. If you like, computer controlled, intelligent, automated systems and sprinklers can take care of the work and all you have to think about is programming and placing the sprinklers.

4. Weed Control

With persistence and using the right technique the battle against weeds in your lawn might actually be won. A lot of weeds can be removed using mechanical means. Smaller weeds (veronicas or white clover) should be removed with a manual scarified, used often in order to disturb them and preventing growth. Daisies and dandelions should be removed with a root weedier and it’s very important to get as much of the root as possible in order to prevent the regrowth. If you – against all odds – are overcome, you have to consider herbicides. In a scenario where the weeds have overcome the grass, the re-structuring of the entire soil and covering it with rolled turf is the best solution.

5. Scarifying and verification

The grass roots need air in order to be able to breathe and grow. The soil of a lawn is often not sandy enough for the roots to get enough air resulting in stunted growth. With the help of a simple digging fork you can stamp holes into the lawn and fill them with coarse sand. This allows water from the surface to flow away and also provides the roots with oxygen. In order to clear away dead roots and other debris you might want to scarify your lawn. By removing the lawn thatch you provide more breathing space for the lower parts of the grass and help the stems grow better.

 

Fertilizing, Seeding, Weeding, Mowing    

                 Here are 20 techniques to help your feed, fertilize, seed, water, and mow your lawn. Keep in mind: The more you let nature do the work for you, the easier it will be to care for your lawn.   

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Feeding Your Lawn

Always pay attention to the soil! Your lawn needs nourishment.

  • Every spring, apply a one-to-two-thick layer of compost to top of your lawn with a spreader. Soils rich in decomposed organic materials will do a better job of holding moisture.
  • In the spring, remove the thatch or dead grass with a rake to help moisture and oxygen reach down to the roots.
  • Aerate (poke holes in) the lawn to loosen up compacted soil and allow oxygen, water, and nutrients to flow. You can use aeration shoes, golf shoes, a pitchfork, or a power aeration tool available at rental shops. 

Fertilizing Your Lawn

  • As well as building your soil with compost, regularly apply a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer with a lawn spreader. The best time to apply fertilizer is just before it rains.
  • In areas of your lawn where tree roots compete with the grass, apply some extra fertilizer to benefit both.

Seeding Your Lawn

  • If you’re seeding or reseeding in bare patches, use a mix of seed that includes slow-growing or low-growing grasses. Fine-leaf fescues have low water and fertility requirements and grow well in places with a mild summer climate. Combine the fescues with a low-maintenance Kentucky bluegrass like ‘Park’, ‘Kenblue’, or ‘South Dakota Common’. Contact your local cooperative extension to see which type of lawn grows best in your area.

Watering Your Lawn

  • Water your lawn early in the morning or in the evening.
  • Water long enough to allow the water to soak in below the root zone. Shallow watering encourages shallow root growth and weeds. It will take about an inch of water to penetrate 6 to 8 inches into the soil. Set out shallow cans in the sprinkler area to measure.
  • Don’t overwater. Make the lawn seek its own source of water, building longer, sturdier roots. Cut back on water especially in midsummer to let the lawn go dormant, strengthening it for fall and winter.
  • Excess water leaches away nutrients and encourages insects. Deep waterings are better for the lawn than light waterings.
  • During a drought, let the grass grow longer between mowings, and reduce fertilizer.

Weeding

  • Prevent weeds with regular mowing and hand-removing tenacious weeds. Relax your stance on weeds, however, and be comfortable with letting some weeds grow in that expanse of green.
  • If weeds are out of control, stop weeds from gaining a roothold in your lawn before they even germinate by using a pre-emergent herbicide. This type of product controls the dreaded crabgrass, as well as other hard-to-eliminate weeds, by stopping their seeds from sprouting in your lawn. Use a pre-emergent early in the spring.
  • Still, we prefer that you learn to live with a not-so-perfectly-perfect lawn. A slightly wild lawn lets volunteer grasses, wildflowers, herbs, and even wild strawberries grow, adding color and variety to your landscape.
  • Clover grows low to the ground and smells lovely after it’s been cut, and it often stays green after the rest of lawn has turned brown; dandelion greens taste great in a salad (if you’re not applying chemical fertilizers!).
  • Moss and sorrel in lawns usually means poor soil, poor aeration or drainage, or excessive acidity.

Mowing Your Lawn

  • To keep a healthy lawn, never cut more than one-third off the total grass height.
  • Mow the lawn when the grass is dry and keep the blades sharp to reduce tearing the grass blades (which invites disease).
  • Leave clippings on the lawn to filter down to the soil, decompose, and recycle nutrients back to the roots. The shorter the clippings, the more quickly they will decompose into the soil. Look into the “mulching mowers” that recycle clippings back onto the lawn.
  • If you have flower beds or areas that the mower can’t reach, use a grass trimmer but be very careful.  Don’t use trimmer to cut grass against tree trunks. It could slice into the bark, which could potentially kill the tree. Also, it’s very easy to trim off your own flowers!

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 pest repellents such as garlic and pepper sprays will repel many insects. Combine the repellent with water in the blender and then strain out the fiber. Or use insecticidal soap, effective against many problematic insects.

What a Grass Plant Looks Like

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Creeping grasses, like bluegrass, Bermuda and most warm-season grasses spread by above- or below-ground runners. Creeping varieties are more prone to thatch.

Bunch grasses, such as fescue and ryegrass, spread from the crown of the plant. Mowing high protects the crown and ensures the survival of the grass.

Composition of a Grass Plant

  • Blade – What most of us call a blade of grass is actually a complex combination of the grass stem, sheath and nodes. If it grows tall enough, a seed head develops.
  • Crown – the base of the grass where all new growth originates.
  • Rhizome – a horizontal below-ground stem or runner. Creeping grasses spread by rhizomes or stolon’s.
  • Roots – the below-ground system that sustains the grass. Water and nutrients are absorbed by the roots.
  • Seed head – the flower of the grass plant.
  • Stolon – a horizontal above-ground stem or runner. Creeping grasses spread by stolon’s or rhizomes.
  • Tiller – made up of leaf blades and sheaths, the stem and sometimes a seed head. They grow from the crown of the plant. Bunch grasses spread by tillering.

 

 

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