As I mentioned last week, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a method used to control pests in the garden by choosing the least invasive methods possible first and working up the ladder as needed. Before you can manage the problem, however, you have to know that there is one and what it is. Proper scouting and identification of garden pests can help head off serious problems and keep your plants in the best shape possible.
Every week that your plants are growing, you should take a few minutes to stroll through your garden and look at the plants for signs of pests. These can include:
- Holes in the leaves
- Leaves are dropping
- Spots or other markings
- The pest itself is visible on the plant or on a trap
Once you know there is a problem, you need to make sure you know what it is so that you can take appropriate measures. If you just figure any pesticide will do and start spraying, you could harm any beneficial insects in your garden and fail to get rid of the ones you were trying to control. You may likely not need any pesticides at all depending on how soon you can catch it and what species has come to visit.
Start by noting all of the symptoms present on the plant and others around it. Take a clear picture with as much detail as possible if you want to get assistance in the identification of your pest. You can try doing an Internet search as a start. There are many groups online that are meant to help people diagnose their problems.
If you are not sure, you can call your local extension office and speak with a trained volunteer. You can also take in or mail a sample of your plant or the pest itself if you like. The extension office is a part of the state university system and benefits from the research performed there, so they are a valuable asset. Finally, we would be happy to come by and look at what you have discovered if needed.
Image by stevendepolo under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License