Integrated pest management

What is integrated pest management?

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a holistic approach to pest control that uses a combination of cultural, mechanical, biological, sanitary, and chemical controls. The goal of IPM is to manage pests to an acceptable level with as little impact to the environment as possible.

Why should I use integrated pest management?

Because IPM uses chemical controls only as a last resort, and even then uses the least toxic forms of chemicals, there is minimal impact on water quality. IPM is a good alternative to simply applying pesticides, which contaminate stormwater runoff and directly impact the health of aquatic organisms. The greatest source of pesticides to urban streams is home applications of insecticides and herbicides in the lawn and garden. Pesticides in stormwater runoff can also affect human health by contaminating drinking water supplies.

How does integrated pest management work?

The basic principle of IPM is the acceptance of a certain number of pests and a certain level of damage to your plants. Preventative measures such as mechanical, cultural, biological, and sanitary controls are used to keep pest levels below a certain critical level. Once the number of pests reaches a certain threshold, a rescue treatment may be needed which can include chemical controls. There are different thresholds for different pests, and these may also vary for different plants. Listed below are specific eco-friendly actions for controlling pests.

Cultural controls

  • Crop rotation: Plant a crop in an area of the garden where it has not been planted for a least a year. This prevents build-up of diseases in the soil and discourages insect infestation.
  • Selection of disease-resistant plants.
  • Trap crop: A trap crop can be planted just outside your garden as a decoy to attract pests. This will help keep the pests away from your garden, and you can remove the insects from the trap crop if you like.

Mechanical controls

  • Row covers: Allow for the penetration of sunlight, air, and moisture, but not insects.
  • Collars: Place paper plates, aluminum pans, and tin cans around the bases of individual plants to protect them from insects.
  • Traps: Vary depending on the type of pests it will be used for, but some use pheromones, and sticky substances to attract and trap pests. Do not place traps directly in your garden.
  • Removal of pests by hand or a vacuum
  • Sprayers: Spraying your plants with a hose will dislodge and kill many pests.
  • Weeding, mulching and hoeing for weed removal.
  • Fences, netting and tree-trunk guards: These methods can be used to limit damage from small mammals and birds.
  • Diatomaceous earth: Diatomaceous earth works as a natural repellent, or, as a homemade alternative, you can blend and strain one head of garlic, ten red chili peppers, and four cups of water and spray on infested plants.

Sanitary controls

Removal of overripe produce and diseased plants: This prevents the diseases from spreading to healthy plants.

Biological controls

  • Insect control: Use naturally occurring beneficial insects to control pests. Examples include using ladybugs to control aphids, and using the praying mantis for most types of pests.
  • Plant flowers such as dill and angelica to attract beneficial insects.

Chemical controls should be used only as a last resort, and then only in the least toxic forms. Less toxic chemical controls include soaps and horticultural oils, inorganic pesticides such as lime sulfur and copper, botanical pesticides, and microbial pesticides.

Because thresholds vary with the pest and type of plant, each individual garden may require a different IPM approach. Contact your local lawn and garden center or extension agent for more information.


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EcoCity Cleveland
3500 Lorain Avenue, Suite 301, Cleveland OH 44113
Cuyahoga Bioregion
(216) 961-5020
Copyright 2002-2003

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