battle bugs and be sensitive to the environment
Frederick County Master Gardener
Pesky pests plague every
garden. Fortunately, there are some options to
chemical treatments. One of the best is
integrated pest management.
IPM is a holistic approach to
pest control that combines good gardening practices
with knowledge about pests and problems, careful
monitoring and a commitment to fewer toxic pest
How do you use IPM in your
garden? Start by building a healthy garden. Use
compost and appropriate fertilizers. Plant, water and
mulch properly. Choose plants well-adapted to our area
and place them where they thrive. Plus, get rid of
weeds and unhealthy plants.
Next, recognize not all bugs
are bad bugs: Only one in 10 are pests. Hundreds of
good insects and spiders help control bad bugs.
Ladybugs eat aphids. Assassin bugs eat Japanese
beetles. Parasitic wasps lay eggs on damaging
caterpillars. Learn which bugs are good bugs and put
them to work.
How do you attract beneficial
insects? Create a diverse habitat by planting
different types of plants for food, cover and nesting
sites. Provide water in shallow containers. Reduce use
of pesticides or stop using them altogether. Switch to
insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils and Bt.
Why? Chemicals don't
discriminate between good bugs and bad bugs.
One of the most important
parts of IPM is checking your garden closely at least
once a week. Become a plant detective.
Do the leaves, shoots, flowers
and trunks look healthy? Are there any pest clues like
droppings, webs or the pest itself? Is there physical
damage from insect feeding or cuts from a lawnmower or
trimmer? Is there anything around a plant that could
cause problems like deep shade, soggy soil or a wall
that reflects heat?
Over half of all plant
problems are caused by environment, not pests.
Once you answer these
questions, identify the problem. Books, the Internet
and your local Extension office can help you find
answers. Early detection and diagnosis makes the fixes
easier, less expensive and less toxic.
How do you manage plant
problems with IPM? First, put up with some damage. I
can look the other way when leaf miners scribble
trails on my columbine. Be patient. Wait for the good
guys to control the had guys. Ladybugs will arrive
about two weeks after aphids start munching roses, so
I sit tight and wait for the cavalry.
Know treatment options:
remove, do nothing or treat. Removing a problem plant
is a valid option if the plant was inexpensive or
isn't important, I'm more likely to toss a $2.99
annual than a valuable tree. Doing nothing can also be
a good choice if the plant will recover on its own or
is at the end of its life span. I know my lilacs will
sprout healthy powdery mildew-free loaves next year.
so I never treat them.
IPM advocates the least toxic
treatments. Use a stream of water from a hose to knock
aphids off roses. Handpick and destroy bagwoms,
Japanese beetles and tomato honrworms. Prune out
damaged areas in trees and shrubs. Use biological
controls like predatory mites. Try pest barriers such
as floating row covers. Use pesticides as a last
resort, selectively and only as a spot treatment.
IPM promotes watching
carefully, knowing plants and pests and responding in
a way that is kindest to the environment. It is
responsible gardening at its best.
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