Integrated Pest Management

integrated pest managementHas your garden pest problem gotten out of control? Every garden has a turning point where the insects start to take over and nothing seems to reclaim the space except for heavy duty (toxic) chemical pesticides. You may throw up your hands at the challenges of saving your beautiful blooms, but what if there was another way? For the organic gardener that wants to stay far away from synthetic chemicals, is there a way to keep garden pests under control and stop them from chewing through every cabbage leaf you’ve planted?

Thankfully, there is. A holistic style of pest control known as integrated pest management (IPM) can save your garden from the pests that want to destroy it. By focusing on several different aspects of insect control through IPM, you’ll soon find that your pest problems are simple to deal with without causing any damage to your soil and surrounding area.

What Is Integrated Pest Management?

Not truly an alternative form of insect control, IPM is actually more a holistic approach to dealing with pests by using multiple methods in combination to keep them under control. Best of all, IPM works without putting the greater environment at risk like conventional pesticides. Rather, it is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long term health over short term eradication and allows room for adaption. You can change your pest control strategy in order to focus on eliminating specific target species, rather than every insect present. Because IPM allows you to solve pest problems without putting people or the environment at risk, it can be done just about anywhere, including urban, natural and agricultural areas.

The goal of IPM isn’t just to stop a pest outbreak while it happens, but also to create long term stability within the system that prevents pests from becoming a problem in the future.

How Does It Work?

Because IPM isn’t a single pest control method, there isn’t just one way to follow it. However, the basic principles of following IPM include consistent inspection, monitoring and reporting of the area you are treating. Through careful planning and preparation, IPM can be used to optimize soil conditions and encourage the growth of healthy plants.

Monitoring your garden means checking the site and surrounding areas frequently to stay in touch with the kinds of pest damage that is happening. Notice from day to day what kinds of plants are being targeted, what damage they are causing and how quickly the population seems to be growing. Identifying the source of your pest problems is the most important step towards starting to alleviate it.

Methods For Success

Successful practice of IPM means starting with a strong foundation for your garden by choosing plants that are insect and disease resistant and carefully taking care of them. The best way to have successful results with organic pest control is to combine several of these methods together in order to specifically target a wide range of insects and different habitat spaces. The methods used to control insect populations through IPM can be split into four main categories:

  • Biological Control: This method of pest control relies on the natural enemies of damaging insects, like bacteria or natural enemies to keep the populations in check. For example, ladybugs love nothing more than munching on aphids, so introducing them into your garden can clear up your aphid problem in no time.
  • Cultural Controls: This method relies on you changing certain aspects of the garden environment in order to make it harder for pests to establish themselves and reproduce. For example, keeping your garden well weeded and reducing how often you water your plants can hurt pest populations because fewer weeds will grow and create habitat space. A strong cover crop will also ensure weeds are not popping up.
  • Mechanical and Physical Controls: These types of methods kill pests directly or block them out to prevent them from getting in your garden. Examples include baited traps for rodents and insects and screens or nets to keep birds away from fruit.
  • Chemical Controls: By definition, chemical control means using (organic) pesticides to keep populations in check. In general, pesticides should only ever be used when needed and should always be applied in ways that minimize the amount of harm that pesticides can cause to other species. IPM use of pesticides means that you carefully select the types of pesticides you use for the job, ensuring they are safe for the air and surrounding climate as well as designed to target the specific species you are going after, not every insect around. A smart plan is to put pesticides in bait stations, rather than in sprays that are spread evenly. Other methods of chemical control involve pheromone attractors that only target insects ready to mate. Of course spraying neem, using enzyme sprays and essential oils can also be used.

The best success with IPM comes from combining cultural, mechanical and chemical pest approaches into your garden so that you efficiently get to the root of your pest problem.

What Are The Benefits?

If you have struggled in the past with trying to control your pest problems through toxic chemical spray, the long term pest alleviation benefits of IPM should be appealing. When practiced effectively, IPM helps you reduce the number of pests in your garden while preventing you from using toxic pesticides that can lead to allergies or asthma, all while saving you money in the long run.

In an increasingly globalized world, pest problems are spreading faster and farther than ever before. Because IPM poses little risk while still effective controls pest populations, it’s a smart choice for protecting your garden against an onslaught of future problems.

Making Your Own IPM Pesticides

There are several variations of IPM sprays that can have big results for your garden. Below are some top recipes that can be used regularly to give you the results you’re looking for.

  • Weekly IPM Spray: This all-around spray isn’t too strong, so you don’t need to worry about overdoing it for your plants.
    • 1 TBS Neem Oil
    • 1 Gallon Warm Water
    • 5ml Agsil16h Liquid Solution
    • ½ Ounce Essential Oil Blend

Blend all ingredients together and lightly spray on the trouble areas of your garden to keep things in control.

  • Root Drench Spray: To keep all parts of your plants as healthy as possible, drench their roots in a special spray to improve overall health and reduce the risk of pathogens from spreading disease.
    • 1 Gallon Clean Water
    • 1 TBS Neem Oil
    • 1-2 tsp Agsil16H 7.8%
    • ¼ cup Aloe Vera Juice
    • Essential Oils (optional)

Stir vigorously to emulsify the solution, and carefully drench the bases of your plants. This spray works best when used weekly.