What is IPM?
IPM is a system of long term preventative pest control techniques which affect only the targeted pest with minimal harm inflicted on the surrounding environment. IPM means:
- Taking measures to encourage the health of your plants
- Taking measures to avoid creating conditions which are favorable to pests
- Closely monitoring your plants on a regular basis in order to prevent and catch pest problems before they get out of hand
- Using less toxic control methods when necessary
What is a Pest?
Any insect, fungus or animal which causes direct harm to your plants.
What is not a Pest?
Any organism that does not cause harm to your plants. Practicing IPM means seeing a bug you don’t recognize and thinking “Hmm, I wonder what that is, and what it does?”* instead of immediately reaching for the bug killer.
Encourage Healthy Plants
An unhealthy plant sends out chemical signals which attract insect pests directly to it. Step one of IPM is researching your plants, knowing what they need to be healthy, and setting up your garden so that each plant has the environmental conditions they need. Consult with the knowledgeable staff at Green Acres Nursery & Supply to learn more about what conditions your plants need to grow.
Avoid Creating a Pest Paradise
Just like learning what your plants need in order to thrive, it’s good to learn what environmental conditions the pests like- so you can avoid them! For example, over-watering your lawn can lead to fungal diseases and weeds. Experiment to see what the minimum water requirements are for your lawn, and cut down on excess water usage to address those problems.
Monitor Your Garden
The most important step in practicing IPM is careful monitoring. Catch small problems before they get too big, then you won’t have to resort to harsh methods of pest control. Ideally, you should take a walk around your garden every day just to check up on things. Once you spot something abnormal, take a sample or a picture into one of our three Green Acres Nursery & Supply locations for help identifying the potential problem.
Less Toxic Methods of Control
Sometimes our best efforts may not be enough, calling for the application of one of the four control techniques. Use them to get your plants back on track, without throwing the ecosystem of your garden out of whack.
For every insect pest which causes damage to your plant, there is a natural predator which attacks and destroys that insect pest. IPM encourages you to avoid using broad-spectrum insecticides, because you may kill just as many good bugs as bad bugs. Learn to identify beneficial insects and make your garden a welcoming environment for them by providing a variety of flowers as a food source.
Cultural control means changing your gardening practices if you find that you have accidentally created favorable conditions for pests. For example, if you have your rose bushes too close together, you may have fungal issues due to poor air circulation. The cultural control solution is to transplant them so they have enough space. Don’t be discouraged if you’ve made a mistake in your cultural practices. Gardening requires patience and a willingness to learn, and if you are practicing IPM you obviously have both.
Mechanical and Physical Controls
Mechanical and physical controls are the best way to directly kill or deter pests without using any kind of chemicals. They are usually only effective if you catch the pests early, so keep up with your monitoring! Examples of physical controls are spraying aphids with the hose, a thick layer of mulch to keep the weeds down and putting up nets to protect your harvest from the birds.
When the pest problem becomes too severe to be remedied with the above methods alone, it’s time for chemical control. Choose pesticides with minimal residual impact on the environment, which target the pest you are combating specifically, and apply them sparingly to the affected plants. Always follow instructions of pesticide labels to avoid unintended contamination of air, soil or water sources. Keep in mind that even relatively less toxic sprays such as neem oil are indiscriminate, meaning they will kill any beneficial insects they touch as well as the insect pests.
For more information on Integrated Pest Management, check out UC Davis website: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/