Maintaining a healthy lake shore and home garden sometimes includes taking steps to reduce insect damage or manage weedy plants.  Though there are lots of remedies to be found at the local hardware store or garden shop, reaching for a chemical solution or weed whacker may not be the best option for the long-term health of your lakeshore.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is an approach that combines prevention, monitoring and the use of the least toxic control when it is needed.  IPM is used by farmers, orchardists and other food producers to manage nuisance insects and weeds all year round.  It starts with understanding the life cycle of pests and taking action early so pests don’t become abundant.  As a last resort, chemical control can be a part of IPM but is carefully chosen for the specific pest and current conditions.  Home owners can  use IPM successfully with a little practice.

The four tier IPM approach :

  1.  Set a level (threshold) when you’ll begin to treat – seeing one Japanese beetle doesn’t mean you need to spray.   Figure out how many can be tolerated before you need to take action.
  2. Monitor the pests of greatest concern for your space – not all insects and plants are pests in need of control.  Some are beneficial and some don’t cause problems.  Figure out what you have and focus on those that are truly pests.
  3. Prevention – there are often things you can do to keep the pests that drive you crazy from reaching the threshold you’ve set.  Mulches, pest-resistant varieties, and good soil may build resistance in your yard.
  4. Control – when your pest level crosses that threshold, take action but consider carefully the method to use.  Your control method should target the pest of concern only and be the least toxic alternative available. In this way, you can minimize damage while protecting the beneficial insects and plants that are sure to be present.

For assistance in figuring out how to set up an IPM plan for your yard, get in contact with UVM Extension’s Master Gardeners.   These local and passionate gardeners have taken classes in garden management and IPM.  The Master Gardener Helpline and online materials provide resources to help you set up your own IPM to help keep pests under control without toxic chemicals.

Listen to a short discussion of IPM from the University of California.

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Visit Grow Smart to get started on your IPM plan