The Role of Integrated Pest Management in a Well Rounded Landscape Maintenance Program
Surrounds garden management teams apply many techniques and perform multiple tasks when caring for Great Falls Virginia landscapes and outdoor living environments. Our commitment to best practices and continuing education makes our approach to landscape maintenance proactive and comprehensive.
The principles underlying Integrated Pest Management (IPM) fit nicely with our holistic approach to landscape maintenance. IPM relies on expert plant selection and plant care practices to suppress disease and pest activity in lawns and gardens. In addition, frequent visits to the landscape ensure that disease or pest issues, when they do occur, are identified and properly treated before widespread damage occurs.
Keeping a Garden Healthy
IPM methodology is based on practical, health-centered plant care. It is not organic or pesticide-free care. An IPM program will use pesticides selectively when and where necessary. The focus is on preventative care that supports the propagation of garden-friendly insects (a.k.a. beneficials) and organisms that support plant health. Pesticide use represents one small part of a well-rounded garden management program.
Weed scientist Dr. Barry Troutman is a technical advisor to National Association of Landscape Professionals and a nationally respected expert on turf care and pest management. Dr. Troutman defines IPM as “the use of scientific knowledge to solve problems in the landscape”. He says that any effective IPM program must include these five steps:
- Adapted Plant Material. Grow plants that are adapted, not only for Northern Virginia but adapted for their location in your landscape. Don’t confuse the term native plant with adapted plant. Native is a general term. A plant could be native to Virginia but poorly adapted for a particular planting site in terms of sun, shade, and moisture.
- Healthy Soil. Soil composition, fertility, and pH must be right for the plant. Our native Northern Virginia soils have to be amended so that they have the proper moisture-holding ingredients.
- Maintenance Practices. You have to mow and prune properly. In the industry, we call these “cultural” practices. You have to mow a lawn at the correct height for the conditions. You need to know the time of year to do pruning so you don’t interfere with flowering.
- Irrigation. You have to water properly. If you don’t have an irrigation system, then you have to go back to number one on this list and select drought resistant plants. If you do have an irrigation system, beware that we tend to over water unless we regularly check the system and adjust for changing conditions.
- Pest Control. Pest refers to anything that damages desirable plants or limits their growth in a significant way. That could be an insect, a disease, a microorganism, a weed, or some mammals. The first step in pest control is identification. Know exactly what you are up against. The second step is to decide whether chemical treatment is necessary, or can predator insects and beneficial microorganisms handle it for you.
The most important steps are the first four. Those have to do with your garden management and landscape maintenance practices. If you get those first four right, Troutman says, the less need you will have to employ chemical treatments.
Treat the Problem Not the Symptom
Pests are often a symptom of a deficiency somewhere else. Dr. Barry Troutman, National Association of Landscape Professionals
We employ holistic landscape maintenance practices to prevent disease problems. When a problem does arise, we take time to correctly identify the disease or insect pest before deciding how to treat it. This diagnostic component is essential to the practice of IPM.
Here’s an example: irrigation. You see a brown spot on your lawn. It needs water, you think. Not so fast! There is a common fungal disease called “large brown patch” that attacks grassroots during wet summers. If you fail to identify the problem before taking action you will make your problem worse. In this case, the solution to the problem is counter-intuitive: do not apply water. Let the area dry out and then treat for the disease.
Here is another example: weeds. You see weeds in your lawn and decide to spray the entire area with herbicide. Troutman says that may not help at all. He says: “Weeds grow in the lawn because there is a place for them to grow. A dense lawn tends to have very few weeds. If you try to control weeds but don’t make the lawn healthier, you’ll end up with more weeds coming up in the same spots.” The weeds are a symptom. The problem is your lawn has not been properly fertilized to compete with the weeds.
A Solution Becomes a Problem
Organisms evolve around obstacles. That’s true in the insect world, the weed world—all of it. Crop dusting every week was selectively taking out the weak organisms, leaving behind the ones that were resistant. Professor Stanton Gill, University of Maryland Extension
Professor Stanton Gill of the University of Maryland Extension says the concept of IPM originated in commercial agriculture years before it was adopted by residential landscape maintenance contractors. During the 1960s, U.S. cotton growers were in a losing battle with pests determined to destroy their crops. It was common practice at that time to mix a little of everything (miticide, insecticide, herbicide) into a chemical cocktail, then spray it over cotton fields from the air.
This approach eventually backfired. Pest insects that survived the constant spraying developed resistance and were multiplying. At the same time, predator insects and beneficial microorganisms were being wiped out of the field. This left the cotton plants even more susceptible to disease and infestation. It was an endlessly ineffective approach. The cotton industry was headed for a crash, so they went to the universities for help.
It’s All About Timing
IPM comes from education, the ability to identify something and decide if it is a real problem. If action must be taken, you take the least toxic course, one that will have the least impact on everything else, the predator insects and pollinators. Prof. Stanton Gill
Researchers dispatched to the fields, collected samples and documented what they found. Most importantly, researchers were able to pinpoint when certain pests would emerge and become active. They discovered, for example, that a destructive caterpillar emerged in April, and that a certain beetle arrived in June. With this knowledge, they could anticipate threats and take preventative action. They were able to change their approach to spray for a target pest during the precise time when it would be vulnerable. They also began to rotate materials and use a different chemistry to keep pests from developing resistance.
The Benefits of IPM
An IPM approach to landscape maintenance and garden management is valuable to the homeowner precisely because it so labor-intensive. It requires more “checkup” visits to a property than standard yard maintenance programs. It also requires highly trained landscape technicians who possess the expertise to identify pests, weeds, and diseases—and who communicate well with clients. The homeowner receives:
- customer-centric care
- high-level expertise
- attention to every detail
If you plan to invest in landscape maintenance services, wouldn’t it feel good to know that your landscape is being cared for by personnel who really know their stuff? If you’d like to discuss how a different level of stewardship can improve the health and appearance of your landscape and gardens, feel free to contact our garden management team for a free consultation.