Plan for Less Pests with Integrated Pest Management


Kayla HauptWhen I grew my first vegetable garden, I was introduced to a method called "The Three Sisters." It is a Native American style of companion planting, which involves interplanting corn, beans, and squash so that they can all benefit from each other. The corn offers supports for the beans, the squash prevents weeds by shading the soil, and the beans push nitrogen into the soil and provide nutrients for all three. It was an interesting plan, and I couldn't help but become more interested in learning how other plants could be companions and help each other out. That first year, I planted every single one of my beds with companions: basil and tomatoes, potatoes and rosemary, nasturtiums and zucchini, broccoli and lettuce. It was a complete mash up with a very unique and detailed order that only I could really understand. The best part? I had hardly any insect or weed pests that year. 


Now, it could have been a coincidence, but I was convinced that I was onto something after attending a lecture on IPM, or Integrated Pest Management. It is a common sense, holistic approach to pest management. Rather than use pest eradication, you will find that IPM uses all responsible tactics possible like a gardener's knowledge of plants, pests, and the environment to reduce the number of pests invited into their gardens before using any sort pesticide. Now, while this may sound like it, IPM is not organic gardening. In fact, organic gardening is simply defined by textbook standards as not using synthetic pesticides on crops. Practicers of IPM can still use pesticides to deter pests, but it's often used as a last resort. As a gardener who prefers not to use any type of sprays, I agree with the practice of IPM for this main reason: it is neither feasible nor responsible to completely kill all insects or prevent all disease problems.

It's really as simple as that! In fact, it's almost like a small mantra to repeat to yourself - it's okay to spot pests and to not reach for the spray! For example, I can remember one moment where I found a small army of aphids attacking one of my sunflowers. While I knew that I could have easily found an insecticide to apply, I tried a mechanical control tactic. I pulled up my garden hose and sprayed them off with a steady stream of water. Aphids have very weak legs and strong mouthparts (that's what they use to suck the life out of your plants), therefore they were too weak after the blast of water to walk back up the sunflower stalk. After about two more days of this, they were gone! It was wonderful. 

Pests are part of the natural environment. They are often found in the garden as an annoyance and can include insects, weeds, plant diseases, and wildlife. While they are a nuisance, they are also part of a growing community of insects and biological life in your garden. In other words, that insect pest may be a meal for another beneficial insect. This is where the entire debate on insecticide (and other pesticide) uses come in; many insecticides that kill an insect pest will also kill a beneficial insect, whether through the application or from the affects that it causes. This includes bees, butterflies, moths, lady beetles, flower flies, lacewings, and more. 

Where does that leave your pest issue? There are many control tactics that you can use to keep the pests away, but I believe the best one is planning for less pests early on in the game. That's where the Three Sisters come in. While the Three Sisters is not necessarily a tactic for preventing insects, it does make an exemplary control for weeds.

Become a Preferred Subscriber and start enjoying the benefits today!

Fall in love with the flavor, versatility, and beauty of Mother Earth Gardener

Mother Earth GardenerDelight your taste buds, mind and eyes with beautiful photos and inspirational techniques on everything you need to know to grow, preserve and cook your own heirloom fruits and vegetables. You won’t want to miss the stories about plants passed down from generation to generation.

Don’t miss a single issue of Mother Earth Gardener. Published by the editors of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Mother Earth Gardener provides decades of organic gardening experience from the most trusted voices in the field. Join today and save off the newsstand price! Get one year (4 issues) for only $24.95! (USA only)

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube