Throughout my weeks in the garden at Grand View Elementary, many of the seedlings were doing very well, big and green and producing fruit, while others were stunted and turning yellow. It looked like they were barely thriving draught conditions. After monitoring the watering system, it was clear they garden beds were getting plenty of water. Perplexed, I began researching garden pests. That’s when I recalled seeing this guy:
One of my classes came across these white grubs while weeding and planting. When the students uncovered them in the soil, there was a chorus of “Eeew!” White grubs are not the most attractive insects. I informed the class that the 99% of insects are beneficial in gardens of Southern California, and that we should just cover them back up and let them do good work for us in our garden. Boy was I wrong!
White grubs are the larva of June bugs. Their favorite food is the roots of grass. They are known for destroying grass lawns mostly, but they will also eat the roots of vegetable plants. The telling sign of a white grub infestation is exactly what we observed in the garden, stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and near grass or just after grass has been removed from the area. The Grand View garden was a perfect candidate for these soil dwellings pests. Enrich LA came to Grand View to rebuild their existing garden which was over grown with tall, thick grass, and we are still working weekly to clear out every blade that pops up in and around the garden beds.
So what’s the solution? How does one get rid of white grubs?
Through my research I was happy to learn that the best solution is organic. Beneficial Nematodes! These microscopic worms are carnivorous and basically eat the white grubs. They are good for ridding gardens and lawns of a number of other pests as well, and they don’t harm plants! Perfect!
The people at Marina del Rey Garden Center were very helpful in coaching me how to most successfully use the nematodes. First they have to be added to the soil at night because UV rays from the sun kill them. Second, the main way they move through the soil is by swimming in the water so it’s vital to soak the soil very, very well just before applying the nematodes. Lastly, the best way to transfer them into the garden is as a soil dressing. We mixed the nematodes with water and then added packaged soil called bumper crop making basically a bucket full of mud which we applied to the beds with shovels. Because we had to this at night, one of the fifth grade teachers and her family met me at the school at 8:30pm and we had a grand time mixing and shoveling the nematode mud.
The next step is to remove the affected plants, and replant the garden. Without roots they will have a minimal chance of survival.
Two weeks later, I am proud to say that the Grand View Elementary Garden is doing very well. The nematodes worked!