Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
September, 2010
Regional Report

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Insect ID is essential. Native leafcutter bees make these half-moon cuts but don't harm the plant. No control is needed.

Integrated Pest Management Part I

The goal of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is to help you solve each potential garden problem with the least toxic effects to humans, other living creatures and the environment. IPM relies on common-sense gardening techniques, many of which you probably already perform. IPM does not preclude the use of pesticides. However, in many instances, a combination of other methods will alleviate the problem without the need for chemicals. A successful solution integrates all factors in the situation, including the pest, plant, growing conditions, weather, the gardener's needs, potential control methods and cost. Here are the basic steps of IPM:

Prevent Problems
Identify Symptoms and Insects
Monitor the Situation
Decide if Control is Required
Choose Control Methods
Keep Records and Evaluate Results

Prevent Problems
Growing strong plants that are less susceptible to insects and diseases is the best way to prevent problems. (I'll cover cultural growing techniques in detail in my next report.)

Identify Symptoms and Insects
Enjoy your garden regularly and examine plants up close. Do they show signs of stress or disease, such as yellowing, wilting, puckering, or discoloration? Are there holes or chewed edges on foliage? Check the undersides of leaves where insects often deposit eggs or cling. Ensure that any insect found is actually the cause of the damage. A magnifying glass is helpful. Accurately identify what you find. This is essential before attempting any control method, especially spraying.

Monitor the Situation
Watch to see what changes take place over the next few days or week. Does the insect population increase? Slowly or rapidly? Are there signs of damage to the foliage? Does the plant show signs of decline? Has another insect arrived on the scene, perhaps to consume the first?

Decide if Control is Required
Gardeners have different tolerances on what is acceptable and must make that determination for their circumstances. Keep in mind that less than five percent of insects are likely to become "true" pests. Also, a true pest may be creating some damage that is cosmetic only and will not threaten the health of the plant. An upcoming change in temperature may eliminate a pest. Perhaps you are entering those bowling ball sized cabbages in a county fair and can't allow cabbage looper holes to spoil their appearance. Whatever the situation, determine if the damage is sufficient to warrant control.

Choose Control Methods
Effective IPM incorporates a blend of control measures. An IPM approach starts with the least toxic method before advancing, with chemical pesticides used as a last resort. Deciding to do nothing at all is a viable choice. Control methods are classified as cultural, mechanical, botanical, or chemical. (I'll cover them in detail in upcoming reports.)

Keep Records and Evaluate
Insects are usually seasonal, arriving and departing at the same time of year. A garden journal will help you make changes in your garden or plant care routine, plan for impending insect arrivals, or perhaps ignore their visit if there were no adverse consequences last year. Jot down the type of insect, what plant it was on, any damage, and weather conditions. Note any control methods and their effectiveness.

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