Grubs are a common pest in lawns and gardens. If you've ever come across thick, short, white worms in your garden, plant containers, or under brown or yellowish patches of lawn, then you've seen grubs for yourself. Grubs like to eat the roots of whatever is growing in the soil where they burrow, so they can do substantial damage - especially if there are a lot of them. Fortunately, there are several ways to get rid of grubs.
Release Beneficial Nematodes
Releasing beneficial nematodes is a great natural way to get rid of grubs and other soil-dwelling pests. Beneficial nematodes are actually worms, but they don't eat plants. Instead, they eat other insects that live in the soil. They're microscopic, so you won't even know they are there.
I apply these triple-threat beneficial nematodes to my garden in early spring. They do a great job of minimizing grubs (and also help keep ticks under control). They arrive in powdered form. Mix the amount you need for the area you plan to cover (per package instructions) in water, then spray on using a hose-end sprayer. Once you've done that, spray the area with water so the nematodes soak in.
Apply Milky Spore
Applying milky spore powder (the Paenibacillus papillae bacteria) to your soil can be a good way to get rid of some grubs. It kills grubs that turn into Japanese beetles, but not other types. All grubs look alike, so you can't be sure what kind you have. However, if - like me - you've had an issue with Japanese beetles in the past, chances are good (almost definite) that they laid eggs in your soil. I use both beneficial nematodes and milky spore in my garden.
You can apply milky spore with a commercial lawn and garden dispenser tube or make your own applicator by drilling holes in a metal can that has a lid (such as a coffee can) and attaching it to a four-foot stick. My husband made a DIY dispenser, so that's what I use. Just fill the can with milky spore powder and put the lid on. Then lightly hit it on the ground every few feet as you walk through the area you want to treat. You can apply milky spore any time other than when the ground is frozen.
Use an Insecticidal Soap Spray
If you have a visible grub infestation, you can get rid of it by spraying grubs with commercial insecticidal soap or a solution of very gentle, fragrance-free soap (such as pure Castille soap) and water. For additional grub-killing power, you can add neem oil to your DIY solution. Be sure to use neem oil that has Azadirachtin in it.
Note: Do not use Dawn or other types of dishwashing liquid or laundry soap in your garden. They can damage the plants they come in contact with. They are also not fully biodegradable, so they can build up in your soil.
Attract Birds to Your Yard
Birds are natural predators of grubs, so bring on the bird feeders, birdhouses, and birdbaths. Place these items throughout your lawn and garden, especially in areas where you have noticed grubs in the soil. Birds will flock to them. While they're there, they'll return the favor by eating the grubs that are invading your soil. Not only that, you'll enjoy looking at the gorgeous birds.
Raise Backyard Chickens
I'm not saying you should get chickens just to control grubs, but if you have (or want!) chickens, they'll definitely help you keep grubs in check. You can either set up their coop or a chicken tractor in an infested area or allow them to free-range within a barrier. As they graze and scratch, your chickens will make it their mission to find - and eat - grubs that are lurking under the soil.
Apply Pesticide (With Caution)
Certain pesticides can help you get rid of grubs, but it's better to try other options first. That's because pesticides - even organic ones - are toxic to beneficial bugs, including bees and other pollinators. If you decide to use a pesticide, remove any flowers and blossoms from the area to reduce the chance of pollinators coming in contact with it. Look for a pesticide that includes pyrethrin when grub control is your goal.
Grub Prevention Tips
All kinds of adult beetles lay eggs in the soil that eventually develop into grubs, which are the larval form of beetles. So, if you see beetles during the summer, you can bet that grubs are brewing in your soil.
- It's easier to stop beetle eggs from growing to the grub stage than to get rid of grubs after they develop. To do this, apply a preventive grub treatment to your lawn in early spring.
- Grubs thrive in moist soil, so you can deter them by making sure that your garden beds and containers drain properly. This will also help keep your plants healthy.
Getting Rid of Lawn and Garden Grubs
Now that you know how to get rid of grubs, you can choose the methods that work well for you. Using a combination of beneficial nematodes and milky spore works for me. I also have bird feeders, birdbaths, and birdhouses strategically placed throughout my planting areas. I recommend starting with those options, as they are fairly simple and won't damage your plants or soil. If they don't work for you, then add other options. Keep in mind that there will probably always be some grubs in your soil - complete elimination isn't a realistic goal. By using these strategies, though, you can cut down on grubs and their damaging effects.