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Managing Garden Pests

Dealing with insect pests in the garden is a fact of
life, but it is possible to prevent damage without
resorting to extreme measures. Completely eliminating
unwanted bugs is impossible and our efforts usually
cause more harm than good. It’s better for us to think
management rather than annihilation. This approach is
good for the garden and takes the pressure off the
gardener to win an unwinnable battle.

Successful pest control is achievable with good
cultural practices and a few low-impact measures.
This isn’t a new concept; it’s called Integrated Pest
Management or IPM and it’s been around since the 1950s.
Farmers developed IPM as a way to counter the side
effects of the heavy pesticide applications popular
after WWII. Pesticide resistance, elimination of natural
predators and pest resurgence were just a few of the
negative results. It turned out that chemicals alone were
no longer effective. Farmer’s needed to partner with
Mother Nature to combat problems.

So how do we use IPM in our gardens? It’s pretty simple: place plants in the right environment, monitor
insect populations and apply the control method that
best fits the situation.

Plant the Right Plants in the Right Environment

Healthy, happy plants are less susceptible to pests and
disease. Make sure the plants you select are suited to
the light, soil and moisture conditions in your garden.
For instance, you wouldn’t plant shade-loving ferns in a
hot, dry place or herbs that like arid conditions in soggy
soil.

Observe and ID

Keep an eye out for insects and insect damage. Early
detection allows you to get ahead of the problem with
simple, earth-friendly measures. Try to identify the
bug first. This will help you determine the best
treatment plan as well as ensure you aren’t eliminating
beneficial insects.

Chemical Free

Integrated Pest Management
Once you’ve identified your pest, there are a few things
you can do that don’t require chemicals. If possible, try
to remove as many insects as you can by hand. Take your
kids on a tomato horn worm hunt; you can blast aphids off
roses with a hard spray of water; or make a slug trap with
a low, open dish of beer.

You can also introduce some beneficial insects to your
garden. You’ll find that lady bugs love the taste of aphids.

Plant companion plants that will repel insects or plant trap
plants that will draw insects away. The fragrance of basil
shoos many bugs off and Japanese beetles will flock to four
o’clocks even though the plant is poisonous to them.

Low-Impact Chemicals

If you find that pests are still hanging around, earth-friendly
products are your next step. Insecticidal soap, neem oil,
pyrethrum and diatomaceous earth are all environmentally
friendly and effective. Just remember that even though these
products are earth-wise, application should be limited to the
areas where the problem exists.