Practical Garden Pest Management

man spraying pesticide in garden

Cade Martin / CDC

Insects are a fact of life in the garden and that's not a bad thing. Many plants depend on insects for pollination after all. There are many ways that insects can be beneficial partners for us, in the garden. There are also insects who do a lot of damage to flowers and vegetables. It's up to the gardener to try and strike a balance.

  • 01 of 07

    Integrated Pest Management

    The first step in garden insect management is to be aware of who is there and what they're doing. Even some of the so called "pests" are only having a snack as they pass through your garden. You wouldn't want to bring out the spray can to get rid of a monarch butterfly caterpillar who is munching on your parsley. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach toward insect control that walks the line between catching problems before they escalate and how much damage can you handle before you bring out the heavy artillery. If you can create a type of harmony in your garden, it's good for you, your plants, and the environment.

  • 02 of 07

    5 Ways to Keep Pests Out of Your Garden

    Integrated Pest Management goes beyond monitoring for pest insects. There are steps you can take to make you garden less inviting to those pests and it doesn't take a lot of effort or money. Tweak the cultural conditions of your garden and cut down on future work and problems.

  • 03 of 07

    The Good Guys - Beneficial Insects

    I mentioned that not all insects are out to wreak havoc on your garden. Some go beyond pollinating in their beneficial impact. There are insects who prey on some of those infuriating pests, like aphids and cabage worms. These are the insects we want to encourage to feel at home in our gardens and all it takes is knowing which plants they are attracted to and giving them cover in the garden.

  • 04 of 07

    A Gallery of Garden Insects and Disease

    To keep the peace in the garden, you have to know what you are dealing with and that starts with identifying what is causing the problem. It's not uncommon to mistake a disease for insect damage or the other way around and no amount of pesticide is going to cure a fungal disease. Here are photos of some common insect pests and the kind of damage they do, along with some possible controls:

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Indoor Pests of Houseplants

    I don't know how they do it, but some insect pests find their way into your home and onto your houseplants. (How do they know there are plants inside?) Indoor pests can be even harder to control than garden pests because there are no natural predators indoors - or at least not many. The pests profiled here tend to hide under leaves unnoticed until the problem is extensive. Check for them every time you water, to stay on top of the situation.

  • 06 of 07

    Organic Pest Control Choices

    Even if your precious plants are being devoured by marauding pests, you don't have to spray toxic chemicals with abandon. There are less toxic options. Do yourself and your plants a favor by always starting with the least toxic solution first. If you can catch the problem early, that's all you should need.

  • 07 of 07

    Useful Pest ID Sites

    Thank goodness for the internet. We now have access to thousands of pages of research and recommendations for just about everything. I always refer people to their local cooperative extension office, because they know what problems are affecting your area and what the best options are for controlling it. Most have Master Gardeners who will answer your questions via phone and they all have web sites with frequently asked questions. Here are a few of my favorite go to sites for answers to my garden problems - and yes, I do have some.

It Takes More than One Approach

Gardening is a juggling act. We create. We destroy. Too much one way or the other and that fragile balance is lost. Make pest management practices a regular part of your gardening chores and just may be able to stay in that delicate middle ground where everyone is happy.