Gardening column: Waging war against a destructive beetle

Back in March of this year, I wrote a column about the dastardly European chafer beetle and the terrible damage it was doing to our lawns at that time of year.

Fast forward to October of this year and the City of Richmond is plagued with the grubs of the chafer beetle emerging out of our lawns way earlier than expected.

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Crows, skunks, raccoons and other beasts are tearing apart our lawns to get at these tasty treats. The beetles typically lay 20 to 30 eggs in July in lawns that are unhealthy.

All that can be done right now, for those infected with the grubs, is to rake up the mess and lay down plastic netting secured with some heavy stones or brick.

For many homeowners, the cycle continues to repeat itself in their lawns every year, even after they have replaced sections or the whole lawn. The most important thing you can do to stop the chafer beetle from choosing your lawn is to continue to regularly maintain it.

Spread compost or new topsoil on your lawn in the spring and re-seed. Let your grass grow longer, apply slow-release organic fertilizer and leave your glass clippings on your lawn rather than raking them up. Apply another light dressing of topsoil or compost in the fall. Water regularly to encourage deep roots which chafer beetles do not like.

Parks and the Environmental Sustainability Departments of the City of Richmond is doing something about the chafer beetle problem. They have created a chafer beetle demonstration lawn at Garden City Park that will showcase alternative grasses/ground covers that are known to be chafer-resistant.  The city developed three plots that include seeds of a pollinator blend, microclover/tall fescue blend and Fleur de Lawn, provided by West Coast Seeds.

The demonstration lawn will give residents the opportunity to look at the chafer resistant ground cover options to assist them before purchasing seeds or turf.

The three plots at Garden City Park include:

• Pollinator Blend: Includes a mix of low growing evergreens and fragrant herbs. This mix will be able to handle a variety of soil and sun conditions and withstand foot traffic.

• Microclover/tall fescue blend: This evergreen blend resembles traditional lawns and should be mowed once per month to keep the microclover from flowering. It can handle different types of soil, tolerates shade and is drought resistant.

• Fleur de Lawn: My favourite! The seed was developed in Oregon as a flowering lawn alternative.

Once established, it is very drought tolerant and stays green with little upkeep. This lawn would require mowing once per month.

The Richmond Garden Club applauds the city for its proactive approach in encouraging our community to move away from traditional lawns and to become more proactive themselves in managing European chafer beetle infestations.

Some of the worst hit areas are located on boulevards surrounding townhouse and condo developments.

We would love to encourage the city to work with developers and lawn care companies to plant alternative grasses and groundcovers rather than the “chafer friendly” traditional lawns, in new developments and in existing residential properties.

So, say good-bye to having to cut the lawn every week and fight off the skunks, crows and raccoons and make the change to alternative ground covers!

Lynda Pasacreta is the current president of the Richmond Garden Club

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