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Integrated Pest Management: Avoid Chemicals in Your Garden

July 25, 2009

Human impulsiveness may be to reach for a bottle of chemicals from the garage at first sight of pests in the garden.  But do you really know what you are doing? Have you thought about the consequences?  Thankfully the Information Age, and multi-media craziness we live in, has helped spread the word about the harmful effects of pesticides on humans and the environment.  Obviously, pests you can see and squish between your fingers are the easiest to control by hand, but what about those naked to the human eye?  Integrated Pest Management is key to a healthy, easy-to-maintain garden.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a strategy to prevent and suppress pests with minimum impact on human health, the environment and nontarget organisms – Steve Dreistadt, University of California

Steps to Integrated Pest Management In a Nutshell

  1. CULTURAL Prevention, prevention, prevention!  Avoid problems by keeping plants healthy.  Look for pest and disease resistant varieties at your local nurseries.  Place your new plants where they grow best, not where you think they look best. >>Learn more about various cultural control methods
  2. PHYSICAL Removing, blocking or trapping pests by hand or some other means (see above video).  Large visible pests like slugs, snail and caterpillars are the easiest to remove by hand.  You can try spraying smaller, soft bodied pests like aphids, mites, lacebugs and mealy bugs with water, but just know they’ll crawl right back up your plant the following day.  So annoying!  Row covers are very effective in protecting plants from migrating pests like root maggots, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, white flies, aphids, leafminers, and cabbage loopers.  >>Learn more about physical control methods
  3. BIOLOGICAL Ecosystems are kept in check by a balance of prey and predators.  Annoying garden pests have natural enemies, including birds, bats, snakes, frogs, toads and moles, but don’t expect them to keep your backyard perfectly balanced. Here’s a tough concept for some new gardeners to accept:  some pests need to be present for their natural predators to survive.  The best you can do is to learn about your backyard’s beneficial insects and tolerate a few pests to keep your ecosystem in check. >>Learn more Beneficial Insects
  4. CHEMICAL Use this technique only as last resort due to health concerns for humans, pets and wildlife.  Even organic pesticides are NOT 100% safe to humans and the environment. If you’ve tried everything else and your pest problem is out-of-control, choose chemicals that meet the following criteria (reference: Sustainbable Gardening: OR/WA Master Gardener Handbook):
  • Least harmful to beneficial organisms
  • Least harmful to the environment
  • Least toxic to the applicator
  • Most specific to the pest
  • >>Learn more about Pesticides

Maintaining a healthy garden does take a little know-how and effort, but the rewards are worth it, not to mention the money you’ll save on reducing your pesticide use.  Knowledge is power, pass it on!


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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Auntie Jo Jo permalink
    July 26, 2009 2:54 pm

    I have been really good about keeping the garden all natural. I even have trouble squishing the bad bugs!!! So far, knock on wood……..I have had good luck. Another great and informational post!! Thanks Jayme!!!

    • July 27, 2009 7:14 am

      Thanks for the nice comments Jodi and good for you for being such a responsible gardener. Although being “natural” takes a little effort, I don’t mind the extra time in the garden. Hope all is well in your backyard. Best, Jayme

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