What Can I Do?
Practice Prevention. Apply a few preventive IPM practices where you can. For example, you could look for pest-resistant plant varieties when planting your gardens. Or, adjust your lawn mower to a higher setting. You might want to send a small sample of your garden or lawn soil to a soil-testing service to find out exactly what and how much fertilizer or compost it needs to grow strong healthy plants. Water properly, deeply and infrequently early in the morning and only water the plant roots if possible. Plant a few more flowering plants to attract and support beneficial insects and spiders throughout the season.
Do a Little Digging. Luckily, most of the pests you encounter are common for which effective solutions are close at hand. Contact your county Extension office or the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Pest Management Office for help in identifying pest problems. Once the issue has been identified, your Extension office or a trained Master Gardener can recommend an IPM solution to address the problem now and prevent recurrence.
Select Pest Control Products Wisely. Some pest control products can be very toxic to people, pets or the environment – even ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ ones. If opting for a pesticide, select and use it wisely. The type of active ingredient, formulation (spray, versus granules, versus powder), timing of application, amount applied, and type of equipment used to make the application and where the product is applied can all affect product effectiveness and risk (to you, your pets, and the environment). Target the pest when and where it is vulnerable and select products that are the lowest risk for you and the environment. Always apply pesticides on the smallest areas possible, to target the pest where it is and to reduce potential exposure to people, pets, and wildlife.
The National Pesticide Information Center is a good resource for help with selecting the right pesticide product. The Maine Board of Pesticides Control can also help. But also consider other pest management tools such as traps, row covers, screening, fencing, or pruning shears. These products often offer an effective and permanent low-risk pest control solution.
Start Small. Try a few things. Then, try a few more tactics as you learn what works for you. You’ll be a pest-busting IPM pro before you know it.
Learn. Enroll in a Master Gardener or Master Naturalist course. Take advantage of free and low-cost workshops offered by garden centers, universities and various organizations and agencies such as Maine Forest Service, Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association, Ecological Landscape Alliance, Garden Clubs and Gardeners Associations or your local Soil and Water Conservation District. Or explore the vast offerings of videos, books, field guides and more available from universities throughout New England and the northeast. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension has specific crop IPM Programs [https://extension.umaine.edu/ipm/programs/] to help more advanced growers and gardeners make sound pest management decisions.
IPM for Maine Home Gardeners
- Plant the Right Plant in the Right Place. When planting, begin with healthy soil your plant will thrive in, and plant in appropriate light. Select plants that are likely to do well in your growing zone, and always avoid the state’s recognized or regulated invasive species. [https://www.maine.gov/invasives]
- Remember Not all Insects are Pests. Some insects are good for the garden or start out “pesty” like caterpillars but ultimately turn into butterflies. Some pests cause only aesthetic damage that does not threaten the long-term health of the plant. And many insects are beneficial in ways not readily evident, such as serving as tiny pest-controlling predators, pollinators or bird food. There are new concerns that insect populations and diversity may be in steep decline globally. A not-quite-perfect lawn and a more natural-looking garden can be more functional and just as beautiful as the neighbor’s. You can make your garden a haven for beneficial insects by simply adjusting your point of view about garden perfection.
- Use the Lowest Risk Product Wherever You Can. When a pest or invasive plant becomes an issue, employ the lowest risk product possible, and use the least amount you can to be effective. Make sure products are designed for the problem you have, and always follow directions. Consult with local experts [https://plantsomethingmaine.org/get-planting/] at your garden center and extension specialist to find a solution to your problem with least impact on the rest of your garden and the environment.
- Enjoy! IPM principles can help you spend more time enjoying your garden. You’ll know you are contributing to maintaining healthy plants as well as a healthy space, community, and ecosystem.