Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Integrated Pest Management is an approach to pest and disease control that combines cultural, biological, physical, and as a last resort, chemical control measures to prevent pest problems.
Cultural control measures are the most important and include using the right plant in the right place. Use resistant plant varieties, especially in vegetable, fruit, and other food crops. Keep plants healthy by providing and maintaining organically-rich soil, fertilizing and watering regularly, mulching to conserve moisture and diminish weeds, and spacing plants properly. Improve sanitation by choosing and purchasing healthy plants, handling plants carefully, cleaning tools to prevent the spread of disease, and removing infested, diseased, or dead plant material. Crop rotation, especially in the vegetable garden, is also an important cultural control. Companion planting, the practice of using certain plants that are attractive to pests and will draw pests away from other plants, such as planting marigolds with tomatoes, is popular but has not been supported by university research-based testing.
Biological control measures include using beneficial insects (such as ladybugs and praying mantis), microbes, nematodes, and animals to control pest populations, and using pesticides that attack specific types of insects.
Physical control measures include using barriers such as fencing, netting, row covers, and cutworm collars, all of which can keep pests from plants. Dehydrating dust barriers, lethal to slugs and snails, are harmless to other animals. Traps and lures may also be used to catch pests before they get into the garden.
Finally, chemical controls, if needed, include using chemicals derived from natural sources and/or manmade chemicals.