Learn pest control methods for vegetable gardening in this two-part blog series on IPM. Part One explains IPM and outlines a multi-step process. Part Two identifies practical nonchemical ways to control insects.
Rapid summer growth of your vegetable garden can lead to an invasion of pests. Although it is impossible—and inadvisable—to rid your garden of all insects, you can use a few different tactics to reduce damage from the six-legged critters. This combination of tactics is known as Integrated Pest Management or IPM.
What is Integrated Pest Management or IPM?
IPM combines the use of pesticides, cultural practices, and nonchemical methods to control pests. Beginning in the 1940s, increasing dependence on pesticide use for insect control caused problems such as pesticide-resistant insects, resurging insect populations, destruction of the pests’ natural enemies, damage to wildlife and water, and potential risks to humans. IPM can reduce or avoid some of these problems by combining insect-control methods instead of using pesticides alone.
Adopt a multi-step IPM plan.
- Make an assessment. Survey your property, monitor insects, consider past pest control practices, and make a priority list of concerns.
- Create a good offense. Denying pests the environment they need to prosper interrupts their growth and reproduction cycle. For example, plant placement is important. Sun-loving vegetables need full sun. Avoid shady or damp areas where some insects might thrive.
- Keep your vegetable garden healthy through wise plant selection, placement, and care. Strong plants are less susceptible to insect invasion.
- Encourage beneficial insect predators in your vegetable garden. Some harmful insects have natural enemies that can provide partial control.
- Check vegetable plants often for infestation. Monitoring can help you catch insects as eggs or larvae before extensive damage takes place.
- Tolerate some plant injury. Minor insect damage will not prevent vegetable plants from producing a harvest.
- Evaluate your IPM approach as vegetables mature. Make changes as necessary.
Use pesticides as a last resort.
Following the above IPM steps will help minimize pesticide use. If you do use pesticides, effective insect management requires identifying products that are suitable for food plants. Read the label to be sure the pesticide is effective for the insects you have identified. Use only the recommended concentration and timing specified. Wear protective clothing and be aware of potential environmental or personal dangers. Store pesticides properly and wash your hands after use.
The payoff—good for you; good for the environment.
Growing healthy plants that produce a beautiful and bountiful harvest is a vegetable gardener’s dream. Using IPM to encourage beneficial insects, discourage pests, and preserve human health and the environment can help realize that dream!
(Learn more about Integrated Pest Management for vegetables at https://ipm.ces.ncsu.edu/ipm-vegetable-crops.)
Written by Mary Alice Ramsey, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.