Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
March, 2009
Regional Report

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Treefrogs, toads, birds, and other animals are a natural part of your yard's ecosystem.

Make Plans for Safe Pest Control

Okay, I'll admit that at this time of year, just as the first daffodils are getting ready to pop open, and we're all excited about getting into the garden, it's easy to gloss over the problems lurking just weeks away. Problems like flea beetles, squash bugs, and slugs. Even the best of gardens, well-tended and fertile with compost-enriched soil, are not immune to at least some garden pests. Rather than wait until your favorite plants are endangered, it makes sense to plan ahead, especially if you want to use the safest control methods.

First and foremost when thinking about garden pests is to consider how much pest damage you can tolerate. Being willing to accept some plant damage means that in the long run, you'll have lower blood pressure and less negative impact on the environment. Another important key to pest control is to think in terms of targeting specific problems rather than using broad-spectrum spraying that can kill beneficial insects as well as pests.

Integrated Pest Management
The technique that scientists have developed to control garden pests with the least environmental impact is called integrated pest management, or IPM. The basic tenets of this method is to properly identify the pest, prevent infestation, disrupt the pest's life cycle, allow predators to do their work, and, only as a last resort, use environmentally safe control products.

There are a number of ways to identify insects and other garden pests. Garden centers sometimes have personnel that can help, but county cooperative extension offices are the primary resource. If you%re not familiar with yours, look for them listed under county offices in the phone book. When taking a pest somewhere, be sure it is sealed in a plastic bag. To do your own identification, consider Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs by Whitney Crenshaw (Princeton University Press, 2004, 29.95). When identifying insects, remember that some insects can look very different in their various life stages.

A Few IPM Tips
When selecting plants and seeds for your garden, choose ones that are pest- and disease-resistant or, at least, are less-pest-prone.

Consider purchasing beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, nematodes, and predatory wasps, to bring into the garden. Be aware that there are differing opinions as to how well this works. Another way to have beneficial insects is to make your garden a welcome place, especially by including flowers that have tiny clusters of blossoms, such as yarrow, alyssum, tansy, and clover. Adding native plants to the garden is also makes a good home for beneficial insects.

Learn about the pest controls that are considered safe. Read product labels carefully when purchasing. Use the correct product for the pest. And, most important of all, follow manufacturer's directions when using. Pyrethrin, spinosad, insecticidal soap, dormant oil, neem, and plant-derived oils are among the most widely used organic pest controls.

Make garden life safe for bats, birds, toads, frogs, salamanders, and other critters that will help to control garden pests.

More Information About IPM

To learn more about IPM, start by reading the Environmental Protection Agency's information at Then, consider these two books, IPM for Gardeners: A Guide to Integrated Pest Management, by Raymond A. Cloyd, Phillip L. Nixon, and Nancy R. Pataky (Timber Press, 2004, $27.95) and The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control: A Complete Problem-Solving Guide to Keeping Your Garden and Yard Healthy Without Chemicals (Rodale Books, 1996, $21.95).

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