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Lawn Care Organic Tip That Controls Japanese Beetles

Looking for more organic ways to care for your lawn? Wait until you see this garden hack that grows a greener, healthier lawn AND controls Japanese beetles and grubs at the same time.

Are you like most home gardeners battling Japanese beetles every year in the garden plus grubs in the lawn?

Japanese beetle and grub damage are a major problem for many homeowners.

But there is an effective way to address the problem permanently and organically.

I’ve been battling Japanese beetles for years.

They used to decimate my roses and destroyed the raspberry foliage in my former gardens.

I tried everything to control them.

From bait traps to a plain old bucket of soapy water, nothing was effective at reducing the population or controlling the overall problem.

While I was studying to become a Master Gardener, I learned an AMAZING garden tip that controls Japanese beetle and grub problems.

Wait until you see how easy it is to organically control them!

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garden NJ in fall with sedum autumm jo zinnias and clematis on a mailbox in front of a suburban center hall colonial
Mailbox garden with sedum autum joy, clematis, zinnias, marigolds and euphorbia.

Organic Lawn Care Studied by Rutgers Cooperative Extension Study

In the Master Gardening course, we were learning about lawn care management through a study Rutgers Cooperative Extension did about what grass seed variety works best with summer drought conditions.

But the study also revealed that certain types of grass were more or less conducive to the Japanese beetle life cycle.

And the results are really interesting.

Rutgers studied several different types of grasses.

After growing and studying different varieties, they determined that Tall Fescue has a much deeper root system (about 18″ to be exact) than Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrasses, etc.

Since Tall Fescue has a deeper root system, it is more drought-tolerant and held up better in summer conditions.

But that’s not all!

deadheading flowers
Gardening zone 6a New Jersey cottage garden with nepeta ‘walkers low’, pink knockout roses, and allium globemaster.

They found that Japanese beetles were less likely to lay their eggs in this particular grass variety.

To understand why this is important, we need to understand their lifecycle.

Japanese beetles eat garden plants and then lay eggs in your lawn that later become grubs that feed off the lawn roots.

When those grubs hatch, they become Japanese beetles that will eat garden plants.

So, the theory is, that the fewer eggs laid in the lawn will ultimately help control both grubs in the lawn and beetles in the garden.

Spring Garden Flowers
Flowering crabapple tree in spring.

Now, that is not to say that they don’t lay any eggs in Tall Fescue, because they do.

However, the study showed that Japanese beetles preferred to lay eggs in grass varieties with a more shallow root system such as Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrasses, etc.

Therefore, it follows that the damage to Tall Fescue lawns and surrounding gardens will be less than properties with other grass varieties.

So…the takeaway is – if we do not provide an ideal habitat for Japanese beetles to lay eggs, they will move on to someone else’s yard.

Sorry neighbor!

Magnolia flowers in spring - My Early Spring in the Garden Tour
Magnolia flowers in early spring.

Wait Until You See This Lawn Care Organic Tip Control Japanese Beetles and Grubs

This gardening hack was mind-blowing!

So I had to try it. And you know what?


Here’s what I did and how long it took to control the problem.

How Do I Keep Japanese Beetles from Eating My Plants?

I overseeded my lawn with tall fescue.

Prior to taking this class, Japanese beetles decimated the foliage in my gardens.

There were so many of them too!

They were all over my plants.

It was terrible!

Front Yard Cottage Garden
New Jersey cottage garden with globemaster alliums, salvia ‘may night’ and creeping phlox.

After taking this class, I changed my lawn from Kentucky Bluegrass to Tall Fescue.

I started overseeding the lawn in late summer/fall of that year, then overseeded it again in spring.

The following summer, I noticed there were fewer Japanese Beetles in my gardens.

And let me tell you, the problem used to be so bad before changing the grass over, that I would literally see four beetles mating on top of one another on one leaf.

It was gross!

close up of blooming hostas in front of gardening zone 6a summer flower garden with center hall colonial
Blooming hostas.

Since I found success that first year, I overseeded the lawn again in late summer/early fall and again in early spring to keep the change going.

By next summer, I saw very few Japanese Beetles in my gardens!

It was truly amazing!

To this day, Japanese Beetles and grubs are not a major issue in my lawn and gardens.

Black lab in backyard garden
My black lab in the backyard cottage garden.

Treat Lawn Care With an Organic Approach – Skip the Chemicals

As someone who changed the grass variety for the purposes of controlling Japanese beetles, let me tell you, this method really works.

Not only did it control the Japanese beetle and grub problem in my yard, but the lawn was more resilient during summer droughts.

While I cannot say that changing the grass variety completely eradicated the Japanese beetle problem, there has been a significant reduction in the population.

endless summer hydrangea with blue flowers and pink knockout roses in backyard garden -how to control japanese beetles
Endless summer blue hydrangea flowers and pink knockout roses in the backyard garden.

My Raspberries, Roses, and Salvia look so much better now and I don’t worry about the beetles decimating the gardens anymore.

Overall, it took roughly two years to fully change the grass over.

I realize it is a long-term fix but it is worth the time and investment.

If you do not live in the New Jersey area, please check with your local cooperative extension about what grass works best in your area.

Tall Fescue may be the best option for you as well.

GArdening zone 6a new jersey garden with summer blooming flowers of tall phlox, balloon flower, moonbeam coreopsis, roses - How to control japanese beetles organically
Gardening zone 6a New Jersey cottage garden with pink tall phlox, white balloon flower and moonbeam coreopsis.

Why Pheromone Traps Don’t Work

People still tell me they are effective but they really aren’t.

Sure you will find beetles in the traps, but these things actually attract MORE to your yard.

So it kind of defeats the purpose of using them?

And if your neighbor is using them, guess what?

They will attract more beetles to your yard too.

It is far more productive to change the lawn over to a grass variety that will better protect your lawn and garden.

blue flowers on Endless summer hydrangeas in backyard garden with raised garden bed planters and garden shed - Are Hydrangeas Deer Resistant?
Japanese Beetles used to decimate these Raspberry leaves before changing my grass to Tall Fescue.

Bucket of Soapy Water is a Good Organic Temporary Solution

While it is effective to stand out there with a bucket of soapy water and knock beetles off the leaves into the buckets, that will only temporarily save the gardens.

Plus it’s a lot of work to maintain in the heat of summer when Japanese beetles are at their worst.

Prior to changing my grass variety, I used to do this almost daily to protect my plants.

Since overseeding the lawn with Tall Fescue, I do not do this anymore because there are so few out there.

pink knockout roses in bloom in backyard garden with raised garden bed planters - landscaping for curb appeal
Pink knockout roses with raised garden beds growing vegetables at sunset.

Milky Spore is an Effective Organic Japanese Beetle and Grub Control Method

While I have not personally used milky spore, I know several people who have and swear by the effectiveness.

It takes a while for it to work, but give it shot if you want to try it.

Follow this technique to apply milky spore.

Curb appeal in the front yard garden. Tour my gardening zone 6a cottage gardens
Landscaping for curb appeal with center hall colonial and front yard gardens.

The Secret to Controlling Japanese Beetles and Grubs

To address Japanese Beetles and grub control effectively means we need to take a long-term approach to management.

Whether you change your grass variety or apply milky spore, it is better to permanently reduce and control their population with organic lawn care than to put a band-aid on it with bait traps and buckets of soapy water.

By following a long-term approach, we permanently control the overall problem and significantly reduce the use of pesticides in the lawn.

And who doesn’t want to do that, right?

To learn more about turf management and controlling Japanese Beetles, see Rutgers Cooperative Extension’ and check out their lawn care FAQs .

Backyard cottage garden in front of garden shed -cut flower garden in my gardening zone 6a backyard border. This is my favorite cottage garden in the landscape in front of the garden shed
5 Quick Ways to Grow a Cottage Garden

What Do You Think?

Isn’t it amazing that by simply changing the grass variety we can reduce the population of both beetles and grubs?

In addition to better protecting my lawn and garden, one of the best reasons for making this change is it reduces the need for pesticides.

So many homeowners pay for lawn services that blindly apply chemicals to lawns to keep them lush and green.

These chemicals leach into the environment and affect wildlife, plants, water, and our health!

Please take grub care services off of the lawn service list and change your grass variety.

close up of endless summer hydrangea macrophylla flowers as they fade in late summer - garden nj in the backyard in late summer with garden shed, raised garden beds and arbor
Endless summer hydrangeas starting to fade in the backyard garden.

My New Gardens

Since we moved to our new home and this is my first year gardening here, I’m learning about new plants, critter damage, and evaluating what needs to be addressed.

As summer is kicking in, we’ve got a lot of rose mallows that are beyond gorgeous in my new gardens.

You can’t beat the foliage and the blooms are spectacular, so I can’t wait to see these bloom.

I’m noticing ALOT of damage to them and found Japanese beetles on them, as well as many other plants.

To control the problem, I plan to implement this organic lawn care method this year to manage the population.

garden plants along driveway include rose mallows, moonbeam coreopsis, butterfly bush, baby's breath spirea, nepeta walkers low and more in my gardening zone 6a new jersey garden
Garden plants along the driveway in summer include rose mallows, moonbeam coreopsis, caryopteris and butterfly bush.

Looking for Ways to Grow a Healthy Garden?

If you want to grow a garden that is beautiful, healthy and full of plants and flowers, it starts with good healthy soil.

In addition to managing weeds, it is so important to improve your garden soil both when you start a new garden, as well as over time.

One of the best ways to improve your soil is to make compost. It’s very easy to do and I’ve got a great recipe for it.

Plus, it’s much less expensive to make your own than to purchase from the garden nursery.

In addition to making your own compost, gather all those leaves in fall and early spring to make leaf mold to improve the health of your garden soil too.

cottage garden with snapdragons by front porch with view of valley
Front porch garden that overlooks the property and valley.

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cottage garden with alliums and salvia may night flowers in gardening zone 6a new jersey garden
pretty flower gardens with roses and a lawn care organic tip that controls japanese beetles

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  1. Great post, Stacy! We have known about milky spore but the tall fescue sounds faster than the milky spore with immediate benefits. Will give this a try!

  2. Stacy,
    We really need this information. We are going to try this technique to get our lawn looking better and hopefully getting rid of those pests. . Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks Rachel – it is a very effective long-term strategy. I’m planning to do it here this fall.

  3. I just saw this article – thank you for this information. I had to look up the Japanese beetle, and have actually seen a few of these in my yard. Down here in north central Texas we have lots of june bugs, who also lay eggs that hatch out as grubs and can destroy a lawn quick-like! I do not like using chemicals that can leach into the ground. Folks in our area have livestock and we know eventually the chremicals will reach pastures and feeding areas. We laid zoysia sod last year, that is really struggling in the summer heat. That and the grubs are doing their best to do away with our grass!

    1. They sound tough to deal with! We don’t have them here in NJ. Grubs are so destructive to the lawn right?