It’s never too early to start preparing for common insect invaders in your lawn. Fall is the perfect time to start taking actionable prevention steps before spring comes around. After-all, once temperatures begin to warm up, more pesky insects begin to return and take over your yard. Sod University has a few tactics you can make in the fall that will help keep your lawn pest-free come springtime.
A regular mowing schedule will go a long way in insect prevention. Tall, overgrown grass gives insects a place to hide and feed. Clearing all the excess growth reduces the amount of places these insects can live. Most lawns can be maintained at a height between 0.5–2 inches in general, but each type of grass performs at its best at various heights. For more detailed information about mowing heights for different grass types, be sure to check out our Lawn Mowing Guide.
Picking up around your yard will make a tremendous difference in the overall likelihood of being invaded by insects. Like overgrown grass, items for insects to hide in such as rotting wood, dead plants, outdoor statues, toys or tools that aren’t properly stored in a storage shed will provide insects with places to burrow and hide in. Carefully look for ant beds, wasp nests or other stinging/biting insect homes that may be currently present as you are cleaning up. Be sure to also cut back any overgrown shrubs or tree limbs—when overgrown, they can take over areas of your lawn and promote bug and pest invasions as they give insects protection and places to hide.
Rake Fallen Leaves
Raking up any of autumn’s fallen leaves will also greatly reduce the possibility of insect invasion. Leaving dead leaves in your lawn may result in damaged, patchy areas of your grass from lack of sunlight or disease presence. The moisture caught between the covering of leaves and the grass is a perfect breeding ground for disease and harmful pests. It is important that turfgrass has adequate access to sunlight, moisture and other nutrients during the fall and into the winter. This will allow it to come back and flourish in the spring. Read more in Autumn’s Fallen Leaves: How to Manage Them.
Thatch is a high level of debris that accumulates over time on the ground below the canopy your grass creates. This consists of dead vegetation, earth, twigs and other things that slowly consolidates into a semi-solid mat that inhibits growth. Some thatch is normal, but once it reaches a certain stage, it ceases with decomposition and becomes stagnant and solid, which offers zero benefits to the grass. This, in turn, creates optimal environments for insects and pests to breed, feed and thrive. You can try mowing your lawn a little shorter than you normally would to help remove it, but if this doesn’t work, you may need to aerate and dethatch your lawn with a thatch rake. Learn more in Why Dethatching and Aeration Matter.
Weeds don’t have a direct impact on insect invasions—but the shade and homes they provide for insects do! Using a pre-emergent, like Prodiamine 65 WDG, to prevent weeds in both the fall and spring will keep weeds from appearing. If you are currently noticing weeds in your lawn, you can attempt to remove them by hand or identify which weeds you are experiencing and purchase an herbicide that is labeled to control that type of weed without damaging your grass. Spectracide Weed Stop for Lawns Plus Crabgrass Killer is a an easy-to-use herbicide that hooks up to the end of your garden hose and controls over 250 common types of weeds. Pre-emergents, as their name suggests, prevent weeds before they emerge from the surface of the soil. Post-emergents use a different method of control and work to kill the currently existing weed.
Reduce Standing Water
Insects, like mosquitos, love damp areas and standing water—or water that is stagnant and doesn’t move. Standing water is a body of water that stays in one place and eventually becomes smelly and dirty. Sizes can range from small puddles to swimming pools. Having an established irrigation schedule that doesn’t overwater your grass reduces the chance of standing water. Most lawns need about one inch of water per week including rainfall. For more information, read our Lawn Irrigation Guide.
Research and Use a Systemic Insecticide
Using a broad-spectrum, systemic insecticide is a great way to prevent insects from taking over in the spring. Broad-spectrum simply means the insecticide will control a wide range of insects. A systemic insecticide works to soak into the plant’s system and protect plants from the inside out. When the insects feed on the treated plant or grass (leaves or weeds) the pests eventually die. A systemic insecticide does not guarantee that there will not be any damage from the insects, but it protects against future attacks. Two popular systemic insecticide products homeowners seem to love are Imidacloprid .5G Granular Insecticide and Merit 2F. Be sure to check out some of our other popular insect products in The Best Insect Killers for Home Lawns.
Although fertilizer does not function as an insect repellent or preventer, it aids plants during times of stress and helps to build up a stronger immune system for biotic and abiotic stressors that may take place in the future. Having nourished, strong grass, bushes, trees and gardens allows your plants to bounce back and survive longer during periods of stress. Sod University recommends the LawnifiTM fertility program. Lawnifi is a fertilizer program designed to feed your lawn the nutrients it needs when it needs them. Subscribe to receive seasonal Lawnifi fertilizer boxes throughout the year, or purchase each seasonal box individually. Your can learn more about Lawnifi at lawnifi.com or by reading Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer?.
Lastly, educating yourself with the various types of common insects that take over throughout the different times of the year will really benefit you and your lawn and garden. You will have a better understanding of what insects look like, what they eat, where they like to live and how to control them without wasting money on products that might not work. You can learn more about common outdoor insects and the products that help control them in our Insect Identification blog. As always, be sure to read through the insecticide application labels thoroughly before use.