When it comes to gardening and farming methods, we tend to think of two classifications: organic and conventional. But if you’re trying to grow a more eco-friendly garden without the investment of time and/or money of going truly organic, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) might be the middle ground you’re looking for.
In IPM agriculture, farmers use ecological principles to limit pests, and use chemical pesticides only as a last resort. IPM has been in use in farming for over 25 years, but its principles can be applied to home gardens, too. Here are some of its basic tenets:
- Proactively avoid problems by choosing plants that have been bred to be pest-resistant, that do well in your region and that will thrive with the level of water, sunlight and type of soil available in your garden area. Consider companion planting to pair your plants with others that can help keep them healthy and thriving.
- Keep plants healthy, as diseased or weak plants will be more susceptible to damage from pests. Planting properly in healthy soil, watering and weed control are key.
- Accept that insects are part of a healthy garden, and be judicious about when to take steps against pests. Remember that the insect you want to get rid of may be an important part of the food chain in your yard. What effect might getting rid of those aphids have on your garden’s ecosystem? Are those beetles really doing damage, and if not, do they need to be dealt with?
- Use natural methods of pest control whenever possible. If insects are truly causing a problem, choose natural pest control methods first, and be sure to only use pest control in the areas where it’s needed.
- When choosing chemical pesticides as a last resort, pick carefully. Make sure the pesticide you choose is meant to deal with your particular problem, and when possible, choose one of the less-toxic kinds. Some pesticides are marked “danger,” while others are marked “warning” or “caution.” In general, those marked “caution” are considered the least toxic of the three and “danger” the most toxic.
IPM farming and gardening applies the “chemicals only when necessary” principles to the use of herbicides, too.