May 31, 2000 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Spring and early summer months usually provide favorable weather for concentrating on home landscapes. But, no homeowner likes to run into pest problems. Pests, whether insect or disease, can seriously injure and even destroy beautiful landscapes.

John Hartman, plant pathologist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, advocates using Integrated Pest Management for home landscapes. IPM focuses on using a variety of ways to manage pests. Many of these work to discourage pests by improving plant health with good growing practices and encouraging beneficial predators and parasites.

The correct identification of pests helps users determine the best timing of pesticide applications based on the pest's life cycle. Chemical use also can be reduced through the IPM tactic of determining how much pest damage a plant can handle before chemical control is necessary. "The benefits of IPM in the home landscape are many," Hartman said. "It should reduce the amount of maintenance and exposure of the homeowner, family and guests to pesticides. Reducing unnecessary chemical use also benefits the Earth.

Hartman said there are many ways to employ IPM Best Management Practices in the home landscape.

"You can plant pest-resistant varieties, and that can be the best weapon," he said. "Since pests and diseases tend to attack when a plant or tree is stressed, providing a healthy environment for the plant is a good integrated, holistic approach."

He said sometimes controlling pests is as easy as cutting out galls in cedar trees to stop the movement of a fungus, raking and composting tree leaves diseased with anthracnose, and taking time to prune dead branches from flowering pear and crab apple trees in the winter to avoid fire blight the next spring.

Practices like these, as well as cultural practices such as sanitation, exclusion and eradication of harmful pathogens, will help reduce plant stress.

If you do have to use pesticides, there are a few things to remember. First, understand the problem that needs to be solved and its best possible solution before purchasing pesticide.

Be sure to know what active ingredient is effective for controlling the pest. Only purchase what you need to do the job.

Don't spray pesticides on sidewalks, streets or driveways, since the run-off could contaminate ground water. Don't spray overhead, unless protected. Don't spray right before it rains; the pesticide needs time to dry so it won't wash off into surface water. It's very important not to dump excess pesticide in one concentrated location or down a drain. Excesses of most pesticides can be stored for later applications.

Anytime you can reduce the amount of chemicals applied to plants in the home landscape, you're doing yourself and the environment a favor, as well as providing a natural growing environment for plants, trees, shrubs, etc.


John Hartman 859-257-5779