Integrated pest management (IPM) is the combination of actions and decisions gardeners make to protect the home garden, lawn, and landscape from unacceptable damage caused by insects, plant diseases, weeds, and other destructive pests. IPM is not one specific action or tactic; it is the combination of all actions that reduce the impact of pests while minimizing negative effects on the environment.
Judicious and proper use of pesticides such as herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides may be included in IPM depending on the preference of the gardener. IPM is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. There is no single correct answer to garden pest problems. IPM expects you to understand the garden ecosystem—your plants, the potential pest problems, and the interrelationships within their environment. With this understanding, you can maintain healthy plants that yield acceptable quantity and quality of produce.
IPM means recognizing that most crops, especially in the home garden, can tolerate a certain amount of pest damage. While we expect produce in the store and at the farmers market to be blemish-free, a small amount of damage can usually be tolerated for homegrown vegetables, depending on the individual gardener’s tolerance of damage.
IPM promotes prevention of pests. Pest prevention requires using knowledge of past and potential pest problems to avoid future problems. Your garden and landscape will require dozens of horticultural decisions that determine what, where, when, and how the landscape and garden are planted and maintained. Collectively, these are called cultural practices and are aimed at establishing and maintaining plants that are healthy, vigorous, and suited to the location. Healthy plants are less prone to disease and insect problems.
Specific proactive actions to reduce pest damage in your garden and landscape include the following:
• Select the right plants for the location; plant crops that are suited to the soil and climate in your area.
•Carefully inspect plants for disease or pests prior to purchase.
• Select insect- and disease-resistant varieties when available.
• Use disease-free, certified seed, if available.
• Practice crop rotation in the vegetable garden. Do not grow the same plants in the same place each year. Plant related crops in one site only once every three or four years.
•Time plantings for best growth and to avoid pest problems when possible.
• Fertilize carefully to avoid over stimulating foliage production. Consider testing the soil for nutrients and minerals to plan fertilizer needs.
• Space plants properly. Proper spacing will allow good air circulation and reduce disease problems. Thin young vegetables and flowers to avoid overcrowding that causes weak growth and contributes to insect and disease problems.
• Use mulch to preserve soil moisture, lessen weed competition, and to reduce soil splash that brings soil borne pathogens into contact with lower leaves.
• Stake or cage tall flowers and vegetable plants to promote air circulation and to keep the blossoms or fruit from coming in contact with the soil.
• Water plants in the morning and at ground level; wet leaves are more susceptible to disease. Drip irrigation systems also reduce leaf wetness, a contributing factor to plant diseases.
• Remove dead or diseased plant material promptly.
• Remove all overripe, damaged, or dropped produce to reduce attraction of scavengers such as picnic beetles and yellow jacket wasps.
• Inspect your plants thoroughly and regularly in order to detect problems early.
• Identify insects and diseases that are present and evaluate the extent and potential damage from the infestation.
By following Integrated Pest Management practices, it will help to reduce the amount of pesticides used in your home garden and landscape. When pesticide use becomes necessary, be sure to follow the label directions and only target the specific pest you are trying to control whether it be insects, diseases or weeds.