Preventative Methods Against Insects and Weeds: “Cultural Controls”

Mixing up Lawn-care Practices

Planting a combination of tradition turf grasses and other low growing species like clover, rye grass, and trefoil can make lawn maintenance a much more simple, low input task. The roots of clover and trefoil species (legumes) are home to beneficial microbes that have the ability to fix nitrogen, that is, to fertilize your lawn naturally and reduce the need for high nitrogen fertilizers. Adding some variety with these plants which are commonly considered “weeds” can help to minimize groundwater pollution from excess fertilizer use, and also provides a better home and food source for bees and other beneficial insects.

A mixed bag of plant species also means less susceptibility to many common pests of turfgrass, such as the infamous soil dwelling “white grubs” and other insect larvae that may hurt your lawn and be destructive in their adult forms. Limiting the use of high nitrogen fertilizers and making use of the fertilizing properties of nitrogen fixing plants can allow your grass to devote more of its energy and nutrients to developing a robust root system, which makes a less desirable habitat for many of these soil dwelling pests, and cuts down on the need to use traditional, harmful insecticides to keep the bugs at bay. A mixed lawn can also be more effective at crowding out undesired weeds than a bed of single seed turf grasses.

Other methods that can be employed to reduce the risk of weed and grub infestation in the lawn, and limit dependence on chemicals include:

  • Mowing higher and less frequently to decrease the amount of exposed soil
  • Watering less frequently (~once a week), but thoroughly and deeply to ensure strong root growth, and avoiding watering when precipitation provides sufficient water supply
  • “Over-seeding” lawns with mixed seeds in early spring or fall to reduce bare spots
  • Leaving a portion of grass clippings on the lawn to decompose and maintain balanced, steady nutrient levels

Mulching and Sheeting (Weed Barriers)

Aside from providing a clean and appealing look for flower beds and gardens, proper mulching around plants can:

  • Return organic nutrients to the soil
  • Prevent implantation of weeds
  • Help retain moisture in soil
  • Keep soil cool

Some environmentally friendly mulches to help prevent weed growth and eliminate herbicide use in your garden:

  • Brush, wood-chips, and sticks from around the yard (makes use of material that would be otherwise disposed of, NO COST)
  • Pine needles/straw and pine bark
  • Cocoa shell mulch (by-product of cocoa manufacturing, insect repellent properties, WARNING: Poisonous to Dogs)
  • Agricultural by-products (peanut shells, corn husks, etc)

Weed barriers are sheets that can be applied below mulch, around plants, to keep weeds from gaining a root foothold. Common weed barriers are made of plastics, but biodegradable materials such as old newspapers, and recycled cardboard sheets available commercially do the job quite well.

Companion Planting to Deter Insects

Many plants, specifically aromatic herbs, can be planted along with garden vegetables in order to deter pest insects including mosquitoes, flies, fleas, ticks, caterpillars, Japanese beetles, and others including:

  • Broadleaf sage (also covers ground area to limit weed growth)
  • Lavender
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Mint / Catnip
  • Thyme
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: