Embracing the Bug


IPM’s Pro-Active Pest Control Approach

For years, I battled with insects – wasps, Japanese beetles, bean beetles, stink bugs, aphids and more.  Like the woman in the garden store line this weekend, I used to buy the most powerful insecticide to wipe out pests even if my cause was hopeless. After learning the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach in a Master Gardening class, I’ve banished such revenge spraying and adopted new ways that support a balanced ecosystem.  You see, my trigger-happy approach was killing off beneficial bugs such as pollinating bees and aphid-eating ladybugs.  So, now I resolve to the IPM ways, and my garden thanks me.

In the simplest terms, IPM is a pro-active approach of first preventing disease by managing a healthy garden then staying in tune with the garden through the growing season and managing pest problems with the most effective control that has the least impact on the environment.

Tolerating this sweet potato vine leaf damage

Tolerating this sweet potato vine leaf damage

Here are the IPM steps:

  • Prevention: Begin by buying healthy plants and planting them in the right location to minimize stress. Choose pest-resistant varieties, rotate crops and remove dead or diseased material from the garden.
  • Tolerance: Know what level of pest damage you can tolerate and consider modifying those standards in exchange for a more balanced ecosystem.
  • Monitor: Be on the lookout for insect damage. Learn to identify various garden pests and options for treating them. Early on, they often can be removed by hand or shot with a stream of water.
  • Control:  When the damage is potentially too great, select a control that will best get the job done without impacting innocent bystanders.
    Considering row covers to protect next season's chard

    Considering row covers to protect next season’s chard

      IPM teaches three types of control: 1) cultural (e.g., hand removal, row covers and barriers) , 2) biological (e.g., attracting pests natural enemies to the garden) and 3) selective pesticides to reduce but not eliminate pest populations Evaluate: Take a look at what works and make notes for the next growing season.  This season in my garden, I had minimal success with delaying cucumber planting to avoid cucumber beetles; I’m taking great care to clean up the garden and remove weeds before seeding to help next season; and my heavier layer of mulching seems to help with this year’s tomato crop.  Perhaps next year, I need to try fellow blogger Deb Knapke’s overhead netting to keep the birds from damaging my tomatoes and Michael Leach’s row covers to protect my cucumber plants and leafy greens.

To learn more about IPM, see the National Pesticide Information Center
The Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio is hosting David Rogers’ Big Bugs exhibition with 10 installations including an 18-foot tall praying mantis, a spider’s web that’s four yards wide, and a butterfly with a wingspan broader than average human height.  The exhibit runs through Sept. 27.


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