Recommended Integrated Pest Management and Cultural Practices

Contact VCE at 703 228-6414 for more information.

Insect control: Most insects are benign or beneficial to gardener. They are important to pollination, improve soil conditions, destroy various weeds, and prey on harmful insects in the garden. Insect traps, baits, repellents and biological controls can be very effective when used properly after an accurate assessment of harmful insects. Take advantage of natural predators, parasites, and pathogens that are already in your garden–encourage spiders, toads, and dragonflies. Learn to recognize eggs and larvae of beneficial insects, including parasites and egg cases. (For more information and images on the web, see
“Insects Pests of Ornamental Plants”

Plant selection: Choose plants that are suited to climate and soil, are disease-free or disease or insect resistant; select only sturdy plants with well-developed root systems, and buy from reputable grower. Avoid cuts, bruises, cracks, and insect damage, which are prime sites for infection.

Pesticides: Always use with great caution. Only use on affected areas of plant and follow label instructions. Failure to do so can make food less safe to eat; harm and kill beneficial insects, worms, and birds; pose serious danger to people and animals from exposure or inhalation; leach into and contaminate groundwater; and induce resistance in pests. VCE can suggest appropriate cultural or biological controls to try first and, if necessary, can advise the correct pesticide and its proper application.

Watering: Water less often but more deeply to improve root growth. VCE recommends 1 inch per week, which wets dry soil 5-6 inches deep. Water in the morning so plants can dry out, preventing many fungal diseases. Use a drip or soaker irrigation system, if possible, to keep foliage dry. For plants susceptible to fungi (e.g. tomatoes and roses), leave extra space between plants for good airflow. Orient plantings so winds help foliage dry quickly. Stay out of the garden while it is wet to prevent soil compaction as well as the spread of disease on shoes.

Sanitation: Remove diseased/infected plant material immediately to prevent spread. Clean up & remove garden refuse that may act as over-wintering sites for pests and diseases, to drastically reduce the chance of re-infection.

Planning: Make use of three (if not four) seasons by selecting plants to provide color all season long. Know your plants – by choosing the proper plant for proper location in garden you will have healthier plants and spend less money replacing them. Diagram plant locations or use plant tags to help you remember.

Weed control: Weeds often harbor pests and compete for nutrients and water. Handpick specific weeds and use spot application of weed control product as appropriate. Identify weed before acting. For more information, see Problem – Weeds (University of Maryland Home and Garden).

Composting: To start a compost pile, use a good base (12″ high) or build on a pallet for airflow and drainage; the ideal ratio of carbon to nitrogen is 30:1, however roughly 50% carbon or brown matter to 50% nitrogen or green matter is easier to remember; make top concave to collect rainwater; turn at least once a month to promote microbial activity that will increase decomposition; do not add dog or cat feces, diseased plant matter, tomato vines, weed seeds or animal foodstuffs. For more information see:

Soil improvement: Maintain slightly acidic soil (pH 6.5); get soil tested every 3 years; add organic matter to the soil, minimizing the use of nonorganic chemicals and fertilizers. For more information see Soil Testing for the Lawn & Landscape (VCE Publication 430-540).

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