Pests in your garden

Insects, spiders, and other crawling or flying creatures are part of a healthy garden. Insects pollinate flowers, recycle nutrients, and also gobble up the real pests in your garden. Here is the crucial fact that passes by most people unnoticed, less than 1% of garden insects actually damage plants.  The unfortunate fact is that pesticides often used to control pests and weeds are also toxic to beneficial garden life, the other 99% of the insects in the garden — and may also harm people, pets, salmon and other wildlife.  A much better approach is IPM.

IPM, Integrated Pest Management is the new mantra

  • Create a healthy garden to stop pest problems before they start. Choose the right plant for your conditions.  Healthy plants and soil not only resist pests and diseases, they also encourage beneficial garden life.
  • When you see damaged plants or what appear to be pests, use a gardening guide to identify the “suspects” first. The internet has an abundance of tools to identify what you have found.  What you think is a pest may actually be a beneficial insect!
  • Stomp or squash them, that should be your first course of action.  Give nature a chance to work. Do not try to eliminate pests at the first sign of damage. Garden pests feed beneficial insect populations and allow them to grow.
  • You can often control pests by using traps or barriers, or by simply removing large pests and infested plant parts. These methods do not harm beneficial garden life or the environment. If pesticides are the only way to control a problem, look for the least toxic ones and closely follow the application tips.  Pesticides have extensive labels and instructions…read both and follow and adhere to the rules, they are there for your protection.

To solve a particular problem, see the control methods described in the Alternative Pest and Weed Controls brochure (PDF), or read the professional Natural Pest, Weed & Disease Control guide.  The Seattle Tilth Hotline, and the Garden Web-Pest Management forum can also help you with pest questions.  It would be helpful if you have digital camera and can share a picture of the insect and the damaged foliage.  You need to provide as much information as you can.  An internet site that is very useful is insect  The local nurseries typically support the Master Gardeners program and will give them a table to answer questions from time to time.  Call and see when they will be there.  Take a picture or samples so they can better understand your problem. They can help identify the offending insect, and can provide ideas on how to manage your problem.

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