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Beneficial Nematodes and Organic Lawn Care

by Gabby Hyman, All About Lawns Columnist

Even with the greatest of care, your organic lawn can become host to Japanese beetle grubs, resulting in unsightly brown patches or dead spots. Beetle grubs typically have a one-year life cycle, but can last longer as they feast on the roots in your lawn.

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According to researchers at the Ohio State University Extension, the best time to fight back is in late July and early August when the grubs are feeding on grass near the surface. Today's weapons of choice--for those who refuse to spray with pesticide--are beneficial nematodes, environmentally safe microscopic organisms that enter the grubs and kill them within 48 hours.

Nematodes are symbiotic bacteria. There are more than 250 species of beneficial nematodes on the market, so it can be important to shop around for ones that are known to fight larvae. Two popular varieties are Steinernema and Heterorhabditis. Nematode characteristics also vary: some enter the soil and begin killing larve instantly while others patrol the soil over time, continuing to make it a rough place for grubs to get a toehold.

Lawn Care with Nematodes

Beneficial nematodes are shipped live and are typically refrigerated until use. You simply open the packet and mix with water, then apply with a sprayer, watering can, or damp sponge. Nematodes prefer moist soil.

Producers sell them by the million, and you'll have to gauge the amount based on the size of your lawn.  Prices vary from around $25 for a million to $50 for 6 million (good up to around a 4,000 square foot lawn).

You won't find any environmental warnings on nematode packets--they're completely safe for use around animals or humans. You may also find them very effective in use against ants, fleas, ticks, and chiggers.


About the Author
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys,, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.

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