Last week we talked about the over 90% of wildlife visitors to our landscapes, mostly in the insect kingdom, which are beneficial or benign. They include:

Predators: Catch, kill and eat the parasites.

Parasitoids: Host-specific insects that lay eggs in or on their victims. As the eggs hatch and continue their life cycle, they slowly eat and kill the host.

Decomposers / Recyclers: Turn trash into treasure by breaking down dead organic matter.

Pollinator: We ran out of space before arriving at these important benefits. They fertilize the flowers which result in the growth of fruits and seeds, ensuring new generations of plants.

After: Get help in your animal kingdom garden

With the proliferation of pesticides, it has become easy to seek chemical solutions to a myriad of garden problems. This approach has had serious ecological consequences, including the destruction of the beneficial species mentioned above.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a more holistic approach to pest management. It is a cost effective strategy to avoid, prevent and manage pest damage with minimal damage to human health, the environment and non-target organisms. He is proactive, not reactive.

Correct diagnosis is important. Suppose the leaves of your plant are turning yellow. The list of possible causes includes too much water, not enough water, too much fertilizer, not enough fertilizer, pH imbalance, natural plant processes, too much light, too little light, pests or diseases.

Matching the needs of plants to the environment they live in is a good start. Plant labels are your friends. Search for Aggie Horticulture online by plant name for interesting scientific information.

When pest populations are identified, decide if the damage warrants treatment. If so, what is the best method of control?

Cultural control, the way we manage our landscapes, can prevent many pest problems. Proper soil preparation will nourish the plants, encouraging healthy root systems and superior growth. Healthy plants are less susceptible to pest and disease problems.

Other considerations include purchasing clean and healthy plants, removing and destroying infested plants, proper sanitation (removing diseased leaves, not leaving fall leaves on the lawn during the winter, etc. .), good plant selection, proper irrigation and fertilization, planting at times less likely to be present, crop rotation and more.

One of the methods of mechanical insect control is the use of covers or barriers. Collecting insects from plants is another.

The third pest control method in IPM is biological control, which are the beneficial predators and parasitoids discussed in last week’s article. Patience is needed; beneficial insects only arrive when they know a feast awaits them.

Finally, the fourth method of last resort is chemical control. Use the less toxic option labeled to control the insect you are fighting. Insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils are the safest and most ephemeral choices.

When exploring your options, keep in mind that everyone except the least toxic to humans should carry a warning label. In order of danger, they are “CAUTION”, “WARNING” and “DANGER”.

The latter means that the pesticide product is highly toxic by at least one route of exposure. It can be corrosive and cause irreversible damage to the skin or eyes. Alternatively, it can be very toxic if ingested, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled. If this is the case, “POISON” must also be included in red letters on the front label of the product.

Make sure you read the label directions and follow it exactly.

This Saturday, come join the Big Country Master Gardener Association at the Taylor County Extension Office for our free Herbal Seminar. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the program begins at 9:00 a.m. Learn how to grow, use and even store herbs.

Expect to have a great time and come home brimming with ideas for your own “herbalist” lifestyle. Snacks and door prizes will be offered.

Call the BCMGA hotline at 325-672-6048 with your gardening questions.

Until next time, good gardening!

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