How to Do the Best Organic Pest Control with Integrated Pest Management [IPM]

organic pest control

New organic gardeners are often most enthusiastic about and most worried about organic pest control. These gardeners want to stop using chemical sprays on their plants -- on the other hand, they're afraid insects and diseases will run amok if they can't blast away with the conventional poisons.

Organic pest control

One of the major differences between organic gardening and conventional gardening is in pest control. Conventional gardeners often wait until an insect, animal or disease appears, and then bring out the heavy artillery to eradicate the problem -- a short-term answer. Organic gardeners are supposed to take a holistic view of the ecosystem in the garden and use techniques year-round to make sure the garden is a healthy one -- a long-term answer. Naturally derived toxic sprays are the last resort.

What is Integrated Pest Management [IPM]?

Universities like UC Davis, that formerly focused on conventional farming and gardening methods, have shifted and now teach a long-term system called Integrated Pest Management. If you look at each word you'll quickly get the picture of how to garden with fewer poisons and fewer pests.


No plant is an island and it has a relationship to the soil conditions (including microorganisms), insect life in the garden, and nearby plants and trees. A problem with one plant is a red flag that there may be an imbalance affecting other life forms in the garden -- and the solution needs to take the whole garden into account.


Plant diseases, and unwanted insects or animals show up in almost every garden, organically maintained or not.


Interesting, isn't it, that the universities chose the word management instead of eradication? Organic gardening promises reduced levels of diseases and pests -- and if organic controls cannot remove a problem completely, the garden philosophy is to tolerate a small amount of damage. The conventional gardening solutions might actually eradicate the disease or pest -- and in the process would also eradicate beneficial microorganisms and insects.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a systematic way of dealing with pests. IPM starts with the least invasive, organic methods. Pesticides are a last resort in both organic pest control and Integrated Pest Management. The difference is that the pesticides in organic gardening are all naturally derived, but Integrated Pest Management also suggests an array of chemicals. Integrated Pest Management does allow conventional chemical sprays as a last step, when all else has failed. Organic pest control does not take that last step.

Additional Resources

In our video Tricia gives an overview of Integrated Pest Management. Take an armchair tour of gardening with IPM in our blog post about using IPM through the garden year. We also have a large selection of pest management products for sale.

Use organic pest control in the Integrated Pest Management system for a well-structured way to keep your garden healthy.

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