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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Jun 27

IPM: It’s Good for your Garden

Posted on June 27, 2016 at 3:31 PM by Ann Vallee

by Dan Carney, Water Conservation Manager

Are aphids plundering your roses, or leafrollers damaging your apple trees? Before you give up hope, consider the benefits of using the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to controlling garden pests. IPM is described by the University of California Cooperative Extension as an “ecological management strategy that prevents or reduces pest damage with minimum harm to human health, the environment, and non-target organisms.”

Here are four IPM strategies you can use in your garden to make those pests less pesky:

1. Water properly – not too much, not too little:
This is the single most important practice that will encourage a healthy, pest-free garden. When you add just the right amount of water to the soil, on an as-needed basis, plants stay in optimum condition so they can resist attacks from lurking nematodes and annoying borers. Sign up today to receive MMWD’s Weekly Watering Schedule and take the guesswork out of watering.

Sunflowers are a favorite of beneficial insects.
2. Encourage natural enemies:
Lady beetles, green lacewings, and parasitic wasps are your garden's best friends when it comes to biological control, but they need year-round sources of food and shelter if you want them to set up housekeeping. Plants for your garden insectary should flower at different times of year so there is always something for beneficial insects to eat. Favorites include yarrow, lupine, lavender, sunflowers, buckwheat, mint, dill, cilantro, coffeberry, and coyote brush. Information on plants that support beneficial insects can be found at

3. Clean up: Remove weeds, dead and diseased branches, leaves, and debris. Your garden will look better and pests will have fewer places to multiply and hide from beneficial predators and parasites.

4. Plant right and skip the chemicals: Most chemical pesticides are not good for you or the environment and can even make your pest problems worse. The good news is they are usually not required to combat pests in home gardens. Planting the right plants in the right place, taking care of the soil, and encouraging biodiversity in your garden are the golden rules for a chemical-free healthy garden. If you’ve tried every non-chemical strategy and still think the “bad” guys are winning, there are controls such as bait stations and insecticidal oils and soaps that may be appropriate and relatively safe. But, to be sure, please contact your local U.C. Cooperative Extension office to get expert advice on application methods and timing.


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