A major part of keeping your turf and trees healthy during the summer is controlling the insects and fungi that can damage or kill your plants.
City of Huntsville Landscape Maintenance Supervisor Craig Shaw shares a few best practices for your yard based on some of the most common pests in Huntsville.
If left untreated, fire ants can potentially destroy roots and ruin your lawn. They are especially rough on bare feet and curious children because of their bite. Fire ants love to hang out at Huntsville parks, too.
Shaw recommends a two-part insecticide process to eliminate them from your yard, starting first with a granule form base system, followed by a liquid form system. The granule form is a bait the ants can take back to the queen to eliminate the entire colony. Shaw advises the granule form will take a bit of time; however, it is effective. The liquid sprays can be more immediate. Always read labels carefully for proper application.
Aphids/White Flies/Lace Bugs
This category of insect can also cause serious damage to your leaves and plants. To get rid of them, consider making your yard a welcoming place for birds and ladybugs. In doing so, the birds and ladybugs will enjoy the aphids when it’s time to eat. If you do need an insecticide spray, always spray under the leaf itself to prevent disturbing the plant’s photosynthesis process.
Neem oil is another option to treat your yard more naturally. You can also try wiping the aphids off with a glove or cutting off the leaf itself. However, be careful to not over-prune your plant and cause damage.
Scale is often associated with Crape Myrtles but can affect other trees and plants as well. Scales are sap-feeding insects known for having a scale or shell-like waxy covering that conceals their bodies. While feeding, soft scale insects excrete a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew. It takes a lot of time and patience (and often skill) to prune a tree the right way to remove scale insects. Ladybugs are a natural predator for scale, so be sure not to harm them with spray applications. If you do use an insecticide spray, check the label carefully as they often require you to apply the product well before any blooms form to protect bees and other pollinators.
Grubs and army worms can cause damage at the root level in your yard. If you notice birds or moles digging holes or spot patches of dead turf around your yard, it may be a sign of a grub problem.
Research insecticides that can rid your turf of grubs if they become a problem. Army worms, which are a form of moth, can be very destructive, possibly destroying a whole lawn in a matter of days. In addition to applying soapy water on top of grass, you can use chemicals to control and eliminate army worms. Water and nourish the lawn, especially during times of drought. A healthy lawn may be able to tolerate an army worm infestation without using insecticides.
Proper irrigation, fertilization and mowing are key to keeping fungi out of your yard during the summer months. Be sure to mow and water your yard in the morning and don’t fertilize too often. Too much fertilization is bad for your grass. When watering, a rule of thumb is to break up your yard into zones and water each in 20-minute cycles. Try watering no more than 2-3 times a week and spread out the days you water.
Brown patch fungi, which you can spot by its namesake brown patches, is a sign that your yard is either over watered or over fertilized. When dealing with any kind of turf fungus, don’t forget to wipe your tools and mower blades off. Even your shoes can transfer the fungus to other parts of your yard. Be careful!
Finally, if you’re shopping for insecticides, please read the labels carefully to choose more environmentally friendly options. It’s also very important to properly dispose of any chemicals according to the label. Please don’t pour any chemicals down sewers or drains. If you have extra lawn chemicals to dispose of, the Solid Waste Disposal Authority’s Household Hazardous Waste Handle with Care Collection facility is open weekdays from 7a.m. to 5 p.m.
Enjoy your lawn this summer and thank you for keeping it clean and green!