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What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?

ladybug on flowers - integrated pest management by Green Environs, CT

Did you know that the best gardeners, the ones who have the best-looking yards, mostly practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?

There’s a good reason for that.

Integrated pest management is a streamlined, ecological approach to pest management that gives you more effective results with less need for harmful chemicals – and who doesn’t want that!

Ultimately, IPM is more effective in controlling the “bad bugs” in your yard and is safer for people, pets, and the environment compared to the traditional method of spraying everything with insecticide. Plus, IPM saves you money that would’ve otherwise been spent on unnecessary pesticides.

How Does Integrated Pest Management Work?

IPM uses a lot of tools in the pest-fighting toolbox. These include regular monitoring of pest populations, the use of biological and cultural controls, applying physical controls, planting pest-resistant varieties, and using organic pesticides.

The ultimate goal is to manage pest populations for long-term prevention, not necessarily to eradicate them entirely. If pest populations are kept down, they’ll cause fewer problems and little noticeable damage in the yard, garden, or greenhouse.

Let’s take a closer look at the essentials of Integrated Pest Management.

Pest Monitoring

Regular monitoring of plants for pests is one of the cornerstones of IPM. It allows us to detect pests early, when populations are low and easy to eradicate. They key is stopping pests before their numbers grow out of control.

Take, for example, monitoring for Colorado potato beetle eggs on your potatoes. These beetles lay clusters of yellow eggs on the undersides of potato leaves in late spring. If you regularly check the undersides of your potato leaves and destroy the eggs as you see them, the beetles won’t have a chance to damage your plants. It’s all a matter of well-timed monitoring and action.

Biological Controls

This is a fancy way of saying that we use living organisms, including insects and bacteria, to control pests in the landscape.

The most popular biological controls for home gardeners are beneficial insects. These are garden-friendly insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantids, and parasitic wasps, which devour large quantities of insect pests.

Cultural Controls

How you cultivate and care for your landscape has a huge effect on the type of pests that attack it and how quickly they spread.

Some of the things you can do to reduce pest populations and help get them under control include:

  • keeping plants and beds clean and well-tended
  • rotating annual crops from one part of the garden to another from year to year
  • removing old leaf litter from the base of plants
  • timing planting to avoid windows of emergence for certain pests
  • pruning heavily infested branches

Physical Controls

Physical controls are used to physically keep pests away from plants. Examples include sticky traps designed for specific insects, fences or netting to stop predating birds and mammals, insect screens or row covers, and other comparable barriers.

Planting Pest-resistant Varieties

If there’s a popular plant that’s prone to specific pest problems, it’s likely that a resistant variety has been bred for it. For example, there are borer-resistant squash varieties and lettuce varieties that are resistant to the lettuce leaf aphid. Choosing varieties that are generally more vigorous and robust can also help with pest resistance.

Organic Pesticides

Pesticide is used a last resort or if there is no other way to control the problem. Organic pesticides include everything from insecticidal soaps to Neem oil and BT dust. To be truly “organic” they must be approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI).

Overall, the organic pesticides used as part of an Integrated Pest Management program are less toxic than non-organic options and just as effective, provided they’re used correctly and in a timely fashion.

And that’s why gardeners and homeowners create an IPM plan and regularly monitor the conditions in their yard. By using a scheduled IPM program, you’ll easily have your yard and garden insect pests under control.

If you want to learn more about the damaging garden pests affecting your yard, give us a call – we’re always happy to take a look at your yard and recommend a course of action that will get you the results you want.