Gardening with Laurie: Integrated pest management

Being an organic gardener means you try to garden the way nature gardens. This means you are constantly observing your plants, the weather and the good and bad insects' activity. This close observation helps you to recognize potential problems. Catching a problem as it starts is usually easier to combat than when discovered later.

The term integrated pest management is a term many of today's gardeners understand. Even many nonorganic gardeners use and realize the importance of using these management methods in their gardening practices.

This method of handling pest issues is to first recognize the specific pest and how many there are of them. Next, survey any damage this particular pest might have caused.

With this information, the gardener can then decide whether the pest could become a problem or be left alone. If action needs to be used to control or eliminate the pest, the most effective management methods will then be selected along with the best time to use them.

When using these methods to control pest issues, a combination of methods will be used. Using a combination of methods together rather than separately provides better effectiveness.

Think about using natural enemies to help control the pest. One of the most well known natural enemies are ladybugs. Use different cultural controls to make your environment unpleasant for the pests: watering the area less, mulch and keep grassy areas mowed down.

Physical controls could include things such as bird netting, fabric covers to keep pests off plants and black plastic sheets to solarize infected soils.

As a last resort, pesticides can be used. The most selective pesticide should be chosen to eliminate the pest and also be safest for other organisms. The pesticide should be applied in a responsible way that minimizes harm to people, animals and the environment.

Integrated pest management should be used in all gardening practices as a long-term prevention of all types of pests.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.