How do I manage weeds and grubs in the lawn organically?

Asked August 26, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT

We bought our suburban residential house this winter. When spring and summer came, we noticed the grass was infested with grubs, weeds (clovers, what I think is creeping Charlie?, crabgrass, and of course dandelions). We try to remain conscious about herbicides and chemicals due to environmental and health concerns in general and specifically because we have a young toddler and active dog who loves being outside. Do you have any recommendations on what should be our starting point? I read about corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent that should go on in early fall for the winter and then again in the spring. I was wondering if you have any specific recommendations or suggestions about moving forward in a safe yet effective manner.

Allegheny County Pennsylvania lawns and turf master gardener program organic ipm lrk

1 Response

I would begin by conducting a soil test. This will tell us what kind of fertilizer and how much your soil needs to grow healthy turf. Then I would aerify the yard this fall. Most rental companies have core aerifiers available. After you aerify, I would put on the fertilizer and then overseed with some high-quality grass seed. Healthy turf will help to crowd out the weeds and clover next year.

Research has proven that the most important fertilizer application of the year is in the late fall. I would apply fertilizer after you core and overseed (and I would do that sooner than later) and then fertilize again in late October or early November.

Corn gluten isn't going to hurt anything in the spring, but we have proven in research trials that it is marginally effective in controlling weeds. I would fertilize, aerify, and overseed and then next summer evaluate and see if you still need to consider alternatives for control of problem areas.

Consult this Extension website for multiple publications on lawn establishment, maintenance, pest management, and other problems: Home Lawns.