Weather dependant, leatherjackets could start making an impact on your lawn as early as February. Warmer weather makes these grass greedy grubs hungry, so they'll work their way closer to the surface to feed on your lawn. Unfortunately, they're not so keen on weeds, only the roots of your grass. If left unchecked they can destroy your lawn completely, and any efforts you make with spring lawn care, such as reseeding, fertilising, or relaying turf, will be wasted. But, there are solutions.
Before you do anything - keep an eye out for signs:
Leather jacket damage
Bare patches across your lawn are a sign of leather jacket damage.
A garden with high fences is more likely to have leatherjackets
If your garden has high walls or fences around it, there is a strong likelihood of leatherjacket activity. As crane flies are blown along by the wind they can often end up rebounding off the fence or wall and landing in your grass - where they then lay their eggs.
A leatherjacket on the surface of your grass
Have a look. Simple dig down below the surface and see what you can find - if there's a problem it won't be long before you come across one of these creatures.
What can you do?
1. Use nature to your advantage.
Birds are a great help
Birds find leatherjackets delicious! If they're not already searching your lawn for you, attract them by spreading bird seed over the affected areas. Make sure you do this BEFORE you do any work to your lawn (apart from spot weeding - which will also help attract birds to your lawn). If you spread seed or relay turf too soon, it will simply be going on top of some very hungry leatherjackets.
2. Use Purity.
Purity is an organic soil conditioner perfect for use in spring as a way to purify the soil before the onset of spring growth. It also has the surprising side effect of creating a hostile environment for leatherjackets to thrive - meaning they come up to the surface making them easier for the birds to remove. Find out more about the benefits of purity for your soil here.
Please note: Purity creates a temporary hostile environment for all creatures living in the soil, including worms. It is easy to remove the worms and put them in a safe place (such as borders and beds) until the effects of the purity wear off.
3. Use water.
A more dramatic (but much less hazardous) method is to saturate the soil with water in the evening and cover with dark tarpaulin/plastic sheeting over night. This flushes the leatherjackets out of the soil to the surface so when the tarpaulin/ plastic sheeting is removed the grubs can simply be picked up and collected or left for the birds.
4. Use nematodes.
The other control method is the use of nematodes, commonly known as roundworms. The use of nematodes can be a good choice for both organic and non-organic gardeners for the control of pests as they are completely safe for pets, children, birds, bees and other wildlife and can be used in spring and autumn.
Of course, prevention is always better than cure. Some top tips are:
1. Let the lawn grow long in late summer - this should cut down on the number of eggs laid in the lawn.
2. If the lawn is dry in late summer - leave it that way - the flies can't lay their eggs if the soil is solid.
3. Fertilise in autumn - use an iron rich fertiliser such as Green and Blacks to prevent eggs from hatching (and green up the grass before winter).
4. Look after your lawn all year - a well maintained lawn will be better equipped to deal with any issues from leatherjackets.
Remember, we're always here to help. Whatever issue you have with your lawn, call us on 01935 850388, message us on Facebook, Instagram or our website, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.