People caring for their home lawns have several pest management options that don’t rely on pesticide use. These options, which take into account pest, beneficial insect, and plant life cycles and behavior, are the key components of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
First, DIY lawn caretakers must decide what their tolerance is for lawn pests, consider the purpose of their lawn, and determine how much damage they are willing to allow. Before reaching that limit, known as an action threshold, practice IPM.
IPM is an approach to managing pests that focuses on pest prevention. It relies on regular monitoring for early detection of damage and the use of cultural, mechanical/physical, and biological control methods to support a healthy lawn. To reduce risks, the use of chemical control methods (pesticides) is selective and targeted. These methods are described further in the following sections and in the IPM Pyramid.
A preventive action plan is the recipe for a dense and healthy lawn that recovers more quickly from damage and outcompetes pests. These steps are considered cultural controls in the IPM model.
- Mow high to shade out weeds and promote deep, healthy roots.
- Sharpen mower blades to ensure a clean, attractive cut that allows grass to recover more quickly.
- Plant the best adapted turfgrass species for your site’s requirements.
- Overseed thinned areas to keep your lawn thick and able to outcompete weeds.
- Core aerate your lawn at least once a year to reduce compacted soils.
- Use soil testing results to determine nutrient needs and fertilize appropriately. Consider fertilizers derived from animal and plant material.
- Leave grass clippings and mulched leaves on your lawn to improve overall soil health.
- Careful and frequent examination of your lawn and site conditions will allow you to identify pest presence, quantity, and any damage before it becomes widespread.
- Test your soil every 3-5 years.
- Scout for problem areas once or twice a month.
- Monitor and assess when pests approach damaging levels.
- Observe weather patterns and the time of year certain pests appear.
- Monitor rainfall and supplement by watering deeply and infrequently.
Mowing height depends on your lawn’s grass species. Mowing below the optimum height can restrict root growth, encourage weed growth, and increase susceptibility to drought, disease, insects, and foot traffic. If your lawn is shaded, mow it 1/2-1 inch higher than the recommendations below.
|Kentucky bluegrass||2 to 3.5|
|Perennial ryegrass||2 to 3.5|
|Fine fescue||2 to 3.5|
|Tall fescue||2.5 to 4|
|Zoysiagrass||1.0 to 2.0|
|Bermudagrass (common)||1.5 to 2.5|