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Danelle Cutting: The best pest practices to help your garden grow

What is IPM? What if I told you that it is one of the most beneficial tools a gardener or homeowner can have for any garden or pest or disease issue? No, it is not magical, but close. IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management. I preach about this tool in many of my workshops and more recently, I spoke about it at a GROW (Gardeners Recreating Our World) workshop in Newton.

So, how do you use IPM to your advantage? There are essentially four basic steps: cultural, biological, mechanical and chemical. This is the order you should treat every issue with your garden or pests in your home. I receive numerous calls on a daily basis asking how to remove a certain insect or what to spray to kill a disease or stink bug.

In reality, the first questions the client should ask are, “Why did this happen in the first place, and how can I prevent it from happening again?” That is why we start with cultural methods. Cultural is using crop rotation, soil sampling, cover crops, no-till, scouting pests, items to discourage pests, etc. Most of our clients’ problems stem from not doing something culturally.

Biological is the second method. This means you can encourage natural enemies to help reduce your pest problem. You can do this in a few ways. One of the easiest but least effective ways is to simply release beneficial insects. If you do not have a habitat for the beneficial insects, they will leave once their food source is gone. So, I always speak about having a habitat for beneficial insects. You can make your flower garden multi-purpose, mix in flowers that attract beneficial insects in your garden, create a way-station for monarchs, use companion planting, and the list continues.

Mechanical is labor intensive. This is hand pulling, weeding, mowing, raking, removing previous season growth, etc. This is important to do because some pests can stay behind in plants that were grown in the previous season and if they are not removed, the problem will continue.

Chemical is last, and this is for everyone: homeowners, gardeners, and pesticide applicators. When trying to tackle a problem, chemical control should be the last resort. If chemical control is needed, make sure you have gone through the prior three steps before choosing pesticides to control a problem. Using pesticides can be beneficial only if used properly. If you don’t solve the issues that could have been prevented in the first three steps, you will continue having problems with the pest.

For more information on the GROW workshop series, visit: http://www.nccgp.org/events

For ideas on pollinator/beneficial insect plants, visit: http://growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/2012/08/ChathamMarketplacePlantListforWeb20145.pdf

As you can see, Rowan County Cooperative Extension has many programs to meet the needs of the community. We would love for you to attend one of our activities in October.

For more information on any of these activities, contact your local Cooperative Extension Agent, Danelle Cutting, at 704-216-8970.

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