IPM?? A competent gardener needs to know what this is,
but doesn't the name just seem designed to shut off curiosity? Yet the drama of
plant life and death, the human choices that affect the health of our children
and pets, the opportunity to become comfortable in our interactions with the
natural world and benign in our effects on it - all this is contained in the
concept that is "Integrated Pest Management."
It means that when our plants fail to
thrive, we identify
exactly what the problem is. Then we solve the problem using the least toxic
means possible. For example, when roses are covered with aphids, we recognize
that in spring and early summer we see an explosion of aphids because, as small
sucking insects, they need tender new growth to feed on.
We know that later in the season,
aphids will not be a
problem because most of the leaves will be mature and tough. Therefore, if we
can keep the aphids off the new growth temporarily by washing them off
repeatedly with the garden hose, our goal will be achieved.
Along these same lines,
we can avoid creating lots of
succulent new growth by using slow acting fertilizers that build up the soil
for overall plant health.
IPM is a knowledge game. The more we know about what our
plants need and what pests and diseases are like, the better we can control
The authors of this book advise that cultural management
("right plant, right place") is the most powerful tool of the home
gardener to avoid pests and diseases. They also offer physical, chemical and
biological controls to consider. IPM does not mean that you must never use a
chemical pest killer, but that you will try to control the pest with simpler,
more natural options first, so as to avoid the side effects of poisons.
This book is
small but packed with information. The 170
pages of text are supplemented by 48 pages of color plates showing diseases and
pests as you might find them on plants. The first chapters are intriguingly
titled "Plant Needs," "Disease Needs," and "Needs of
Insects, Mites and Mollusks." Yet the gardener would do well to skip these
chapters and go to the heart of the matter, Chapter 5, "Recognizing and
Assessing Pest Problems." Going through the steps to identify a plant
problem, followed by Chapters 6, 7 and 8 which spell out methods of pest and
disease control, will give the reader an experience upon which to hang the
information-dense first chapters.
The book is an excellent textbook for those who want
practical foundation in IPM. It must be said, however, that it is a
"textbook," not a gardener's manual. It is not intended to be used to
diagnose problems, for, although there is much diagnostic information, it is
organized to the goal of educating the gardener about the IPM way of thinking.
The scientific language, although clearly explained, is a small additional
burden for the general reader who has to learn the "lingo."
These criticisms aside,
you will find new information
relevant to your garden on every page. I came away with a new appreciation for
the miracle of plant growth and the ingenuity of the pests and diseases that
live on plants.