A Way of Thinking and Acting About Gardening

Have you been exposed to the idea of Integrated Pest management (Known simply as IPM)? This is really nothing more than a way of thinking in regard to pests and diseases in your gardens. The idea is to keep plants from getting damaged by diseases and pests and to manage pests and diseases if they do occur in ways that are the least harmful to both human health and the environment. Let's say you notice insects flying around your roses. Instead of grabbing that spray you would check to see if the insect is even a pest. If you notice the insects nibbling on the leaves you would identify it and make a decision as to whether further action needs to be taken. It might be just as easy to grab your hose and simply wash the insects off the plant. If the insecst happen to be a Japanese Beetle you might carry a can with diluted detergent in it and simply knock the beetles into the water. Yes we all know that a spray can be used but is it necessary? Don't forget that many sprays don't discriminate between harmful and beneficial insects but you can. Proponents of IPM are not against the use of pesticides. They are opposed to their indiscriminate use. Pesticides should be used as a last resort not the first.

What else can the IPM gardener do? Learn something about your soil, its pH, its texture, whether or not it needs amendment with organic substances such as compost. Select hardy varieties of plants. Read the labels. If your tomatoes succumbed to a fungus last year don't plant the same type of tomato in the same spot again this year. Purchase plants for your garden that look healthy and take the time to read the labels to see if the plants are resistant to certain diseases..

You have a great deal of control over the success of your plants. Plant them at the correct depth and follow directions regarding watering. Remember it is better to water deeply once a week than lightly once a day. Take a walk around your gardens. Look for symptoms such as dead or yellow leaves and for signs such as insects and mildew. Remove or prune diseased plants being sure to sterilize your clippers in a dilute bleach solution between cuts so you don't spread disease. Weed.,weed, weed! Weeds steal nutrients from the surrounding plants as they usually grow faster and grab the food. Often you can get rid of a pest with traps, organic products such as Neem oil, hand picking, or a spurt of water from your hose...

Many times a healthy plant will survive a disease or insect attack. All infections don't kill you. All infections won't kill your plants either. The important thing is to learn the difference between a serious infestation which can destroy ash trees such as Emerald Ash Borer and a few wasps simply looking for dinner for their offspring!

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Forever Young Magazine - July 2009