IPMStriking a balanced equation between all the natural elements in gardening is the key to success. Light, nutrients, temperature and moisture all work together to make a proper environment for plants to thrive. Organisms including bacteria, earthworms and countless other micro-organisms play an important role in maintaining a harmony in your garden.

Any imbalance in the natural conditions creates a lot of interlinked complex problems. The “Integrated Pest Management”(IPM) therefore becomes extremely important which  helps in restoring and maintaining the natural balance.

During World War II, pesticides became the magic bullet that would save the world from insects. The chemists didn’t count on bugs’ ability to develop chemical resistance. By the 1960s, the magic bullets were missing more than they were hitting, and causing as many problems as they were solving.

IPM2The integrated pest management (IPM) was designed to deal with different types of pest problems. IPM is holistic gardening: You first gather all the facts about the landscape and everything going on within it, then decide on the best steps for any problems. They may include spraying a botanical pesticide, changing cultural practices, altering a microclimate or, as a last resort, applying chemicals. But nothing is done blindly.

In order to achieve best results in your garden it is always better to understand and work with nature. With following five useful guidelines you can implement IPM more effectively in your garden;

1. Make an honest assessment of your own level of acceptance of infection and damage of plants in your garden. Decide whether to save or toss it.

2. Understand the possible pests your plants will face, when to act and the guidelines for what to do.

3. Check and monitor the situation in your garden intermittently. Go for regular inspecting for eggs and disease damage, and check for secondary signs, such as yellowing leaves or black sooty mold. Find out what’s causing the problem and apply the right cure at the right time.

4. Use your findings to keep pests in line. The more methods you can put to work, the better. That’s the “integrated” part of IPM. Some problems may only require changes in culture. For instance, Rhododendrons are vulnerable to phytophthora root rot, so moving them to a dryer location or reducing watering could eliminate the wet soil where that fungus thrives. Flowering crab apples and junipers both share cedar-apple-rust fungi, so keep them separated in the landscape.

Many experienced gardeners prefer non-synthetic, biological controls. Three products can take care of most problems if and when applied appropriately: Bacillus thuringiensis (commonly known as Bt) targets leaf- and flower-eating caterpillars. Insecticidal soap goes after sucking insects like aphids, spider mites and mealy bugs. Neem oil gets leaf chewers like cutworms and Japanese beetles.

Do not forget following label directions and apply at the correct stage in the pest’s lifecycle. Spray only the affected plants.

5. Ensure that the IPM has been effective, and make changes as necessary. Head off problems before they start. Design your landscape with plants adapted to your climate. Build diversity with lots of species and choose resistant varieties.

Understanding and working with nature will always yield better, more satisfying results.

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