Tackling leather jackets in the lawn

These pests, the larvae of crane flies or daddy-longlegs, destroy lawns and vegetable plots. They’re active from February to October, so now is a good time to start getting rid of them – or prevent them from munching through your garden and destroying it.

Methods for remedying leather jackets 
Leather jacket
  1. Most natural option is to encourage the birds – birds like magpies, starlings & rooks will search and eat grubs from the lawn. To encourage them into your garden put out meal worms and fat balls, they will soon start searching the lawn for food 
  2. By soaking the ground you can encourage leather jackets to the surface where they can be picked up and disposed or exposed to the birds. Wet the affected area of lawn and cover with black sheeting or tarpaulin and anchor down for a couple of days. Leather jackets will come to surface. This can be repeated until you’ve covered the whole garden. 
  3. Biological control (as advised by RHS) known as pathogenic nematodes which are watered into the lawn. Nematodes are microscopic creatures that act as parasites on other insect and infect them before eating them. Nematodes must be used at specific times of year to be effective so please read the labels carefully to ensure you are only targeting leatherjackets as they can also affect over insects too. Nematodes can be purchased online. The nematode ‘Steinernema feltiae’ specifically targets leather jackets. They are safe for humans and animals.
  4. If all else fails – replace turf using a reputable company with guarantee to ensure the lawn is not infested with leatherjackets and you can contact them for advice and issues. Or consider taking up lawn replacing with more borders or a gravel garden! 

For more information, including a list of biological control suppliers, click here.

Grass & Soil 

The process to improve your soil can be done on just borders with plants or across whole garden in stages:

  1. Lightly dig the top 15cm of soil surface to release compaction 
  2. Try to remove as many weeds, rubble & rubbish as you go, a pick axe may be required. Avoid digging deeper than subsoil as it can bring up clay soil that you don’t want on the surface
  3. Spread a generous layer of organic matter on top about 5 – 10cm to ensure a good coverage. If you want you can lightly dig this into your soil or simply let the worms do the magic and take in down into the soil for you (much easier!). Try to do this dryish conditions to avoid a muddy mess! 
  4. Frost can also help break down soil if you dig up large clumps, leave in piles throughout winter, the frost will slowly crumble it down to a useable planting medium. This will help to retain moisture and aid drainage which plants need to ensure their rots do not rot, while adding much needed nutrients to the soil. 
  5. Once you are happy with your growing medium, avoid digging again as this will damage the soil structure (for more information look up ‘no dig’ method)