There is nothing worse than coming into your garden to discover that seemingly, overnight, an entire crop was eliminated by insects. And once done, months of hard work can be negated for an entire season. While it seems like pests appear and disappear at random, there is a pattern to their movement and subsequently a pattern for prevention.Integrative Pest Management (IPM) is a comprehensive strategy for controlling pest insects in your garden through a combination of cultural practices (growing habits), insect scouting and proper pest treatment. The best gardeners employ a variety of practices to keep insects in check in their gardens, including maintaining healthy plants through regular watering and weeding. This article explores IPM practices that will allow you to keep your garden healthy with low levels of insect damage.
Good Cultural Habits Promote Pest-Free Plants. Keeping your plants healthy is the best way to prevent both pest damage and plant disease. Some of the practices that you already do, like regular watering and weeding are the first steps in promoting plant health, which in turn allow your plants to better survive any insect attack. Below are a few basic things you can incorporate into your garden routine to help keep pest pressure at a minimum:
Weed your garden: Weeds provide great habitat for various life stages of insects, so even if you are applying an insecticide to your vegetable plant, the insect could still be living on the weed right next to it.
Keep the grass mowed around the perimeter: Keeping a clean or low-level vegetative perimeter around your garden will also decrease the amount of habitat available for pests.
Plant beneficial insect attractants: Some insects are predatory and EAT pest insects, so planting flowers and a diverse garden will help bring in some of the good guys to work for you. Learn the good bugs from the bad bugs.
Be able to identify all the life stages of both pest and beneficial insects: All insects go through some sort of metamorphosis, and in each stage pose different levels of threat to plants, so knowing what to look for can help you make a plan.
Water your garden regularly! Many plants become more susceptible to insects and diseases, because they are stressed out from lack of water. Developing and maintaining a regular watering schedule can go a long way towards keeping your plants healthy.
The University of Kentucky also publishes a monthly e-newsletter, Kentucky Pest News, that covers all insect-related events as they occur in the state along with the most current research on management. You can subscribe to this directly by visiting: http://plantpathology.ca.uky.edu/extension/kpn.
As always, if you need help or any questions, feel free to call your local Cooperative Extension Office.
Submitted by Bethany Pratt, Agent for Horticulture, Jefferson Co. Cooperative Extension Service