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Let’s talk about grubs

February 12, 2020 -  By
Grubs in soil (Photo: Omaha Organics)

Thatch dwellers Grubs feed on lawns’ roots and live in the thatch layer. (Photo: Omaha Organics)

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of dealing with grubs is that they infest thick, healthy turf stands.

“Grubs eat the roots — they like thicker lawns because those are a better food source, and they live in the thatch,” says Luke Hawthorne, owner of Emerald Lawns in Round Rock, Texas. “They’re going to be looking for lawns that’re taken care of, well watered and well fertilized.”

Hawthorne and Rob Elder, president of Omaha Organics in Omaha, Neb., share their grub control approaches.

A prevalent problem

Within the past decade or so, grubs have become much more common in Emerald Lawns’ service area.

“I think it’s the moderate winters here, and we have so much growth, so there’s a lot of lawns being put in, which is a much better food source,” Hawthorne says. “The grubs don’t stop feeding here because the seasons are so temperate. We barely have a hard freeze in the wintertime.”

The $12 million firm provides lawn and tree care services to a 90 percent residential, 10 percent commercial clientele.

The company typically spots damage in the spring once the grass is no longer dormant. The brown grub-damaged areas stand out against the green turf. Hawthorne says the grass feels spongy to walk on, and it’s not attached to the soil very well.

Grub-infested lawn (Photo: Omaha Organics)

Grubs typically infest well-watered, well-fertilized and otherwise healthy lawns. (Photo: Omaha Organics)

To control the pests, Emerald Lawns technicians apply an insecticide with an active ingredient of chlorantraniliprole or imidacloprid once annually sometime between April or June.

The company also recommends scalping a lawn or cutting it a couple of inches shorter than normal and bagging or raking it after the first cut in the spring.

“Keeping that thatch layer to a minimum will help drastically cut down that grub population,” Hawthorne says.

Organic option

Omaha Organics, which provides 5 percent mowing and maintenance and 95 percent lawn care services to a 70 percent residential, 30 percent commercial clientele, takes an organic approach to contend with the pests.

First, the company takes a sample of each yard and puts it through a soil test to determine a yard’s needs.

“We focus on every yard specifically as to what nutrients it needs,” Elder says. “Instead of doing a nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium fertilizer, as in most chemical fertilizers, we’ll do an organic program with lots of micronutrients, secondary nutrients and amino acids, along with the nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium.”

The company also implements practices such as overseeding and aeration, typically in the fall, to help build a healthy root and soil structure. For turf installs, it uses fescue because grub damage is less apparent. Upon request, the company will chemically treat a lawn with a product that has the active ingredient trichlorfon.

Elder stresses that Omaha Organics harbors an all-or-nothing attitude when it comes to taking on new customers.

“We don’t take on customers unless they’re going to do our plan,” he says. “It’s what we need to do to your yard, or your yard is not going to get the best response.”

To educate customers on the approach, Omaha Organic’s website features more than 120 blogs on the products and services the company offers.

“We’ve made our website that detailed and informational because it almost became a full-time job educating people,” Elder says. “(But) most of our customers come to us because they want an organic option, and there’s really none in town other than us.”

This article is tagged with and posted in 0120, Featured, Turf+Ornamental Care
Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's former managing editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

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