Pest Management

In Your Lawn and Garden
For years, pest control has meant chemicals. Once viewed as safe and effective for insect control, chemical pesticides are now recognized as having potential for ecological harm; poisoning wildlife, contaminating water and the soil itself, and harming humans – especially children.

Some of this poison finds its way into Puget Sound where it disrupts the balance of life. Many pesticides last a long time. When they enter Puget Sound, they can move from place to place causing problems all along the way.

Taking Action
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a horticultural practice that focuses on prevention by considering the ecosystem as a whole. An IPM approach to lawn and garden maintenance begins with an understanding of the physical conditions the plants require to thrive. IPM prevents pest problems by using appropriate, adapted plant varieties, providing the necessary nutrients and moisture, and following through with good maintenance practices. Even so, problems may still arise. An important part of IPM is defining what constitutes a problem. We must determine the threshold level of weeds or insect damage we are willing to accept. Setting our pest tolerance too low results in unnecessary treatments and possible environmental damage.

WSU Cooperative Extension agents and publications can help provide the needed information. Then a projection of the pest’s potential as a problem can be determined. Often natural predators may keep pest populations manageable over the long term, despite brief fluctuations at certain times of the year.

When considering a treatment, the goal is not to eradicate the pest, but to use the least toxic treatment that will drop the pest level below our established threshold. For example, increasing nutrient levels through fertilization might be an appropriate treatment to allow the lawn successfully compete against a weed or insect. Hand weeding can an appropriate response in some situations.

All treatments need to be evaluated periodically to determine effectiveness. The evaluation may indicate that the treatment be repeated or changed. Often it is necessary to combine a series of treatments to achieve a reduction of pest levels.

Although it may sound pretty technical, applying the IPM method to home garden and lawn care is not difficult. With a little determination to learn about horticultural practices and pest life cycles, we can minimize chemical use without compromising the aesthetic quality of our landscapes.

Some Simple Things We Can Do In Our Houses and Gardens