You may have heard of Integrated Pest Management and wondered what it meant. Integrated Pest Management is a fancy way to describe the practice of planning and working in your lawn or garden to prevent weeds and pests, using chemicals only as the last resort. Here are some basic steps:
1. Learn about the plants and the weeds and bugs that affect them.
2. Choose the right plants. Plant native species whenever possible. Native plants are better protected by their own “immune systems” and their relationships with other plants and animals in the area. You may also look for plants that are pest-resistant. Diversifying the garden with a variety of plants will help the plants protect each other from pests. For example, small flowered plants like daisies, mint, and rosemary attract many insects that eat the pests. Check with a local garden shop or nursery for recommendations.
3. Maintain healthy, fertile soil by rotating your plants, adding compost, and mulching.
4. Plant early to avoid the worst bug season.
5. Allow growth of the pests’ natural predators. Ladybugs, ground beetles, and birds eat many pests, and fungi and moss can infect the pests naturally. Spraying chemicals often kills the beneficial bugs too.
6. Get out there and work with your hands! A hoe, spade, and your hands are the best tools to combat weeds. Getting close to your plants will help you identify problems and remove pests and damaged plants by hand. Tilling can eliminate many weeds as well. Pruning plants helps remove diseased parts, leaving the plant’s nutrients for the healthy parts. Always prune back to a main branch or stem; leaving “stubs” opens a door for pests.
7. Keep a garden journal in which you record when you see pests, what they look like, what they have done to the plants, and the actions taken. In this way, you will learn what works and what doesn’t while experimenting with new techniques.
For more information, visit these links. Most universities and state and local governments provide information about local plants and pesticide use, so try searching for a local organization as well.