The undesirables: Dealing with those pests in the garden |

The undesirables: Dealing with those pests in the garden

Ann Wright


WHAT: Master Gardeners free workshop “Garden Makeover – Lawn to Landscape”

WHEN: Saturday, June 1, 10 a.m. to noon

WHERE: Demonstration Garden, 1036 West Main St., Grass Valley

INFO: 530-273-0919

With the abundant rain we have had over the winter and into the spring, it will be interesting to see how this year is different than last year in the garden.

Although we have no control over the weather, in the garden we can become more observant and watch to see what happens as a result of what the weather brings — and then head the bad guys off at the pass.

Management of pests is something with which we do have some control, and although it is sometimes hard to predict what pest will be a problem at any given time, Integrated Pest Management is a method that helps gardeners figure out what is becoming a problem and then how to manage it. The University of California Integrated Pest Management website ( offers a definition of pests as organisms that interfere with the desirable plants in our gardens.

These organisms include plants, animals, insects, and pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. So many from which to choose!

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Integrated Pest Management involves the process of identifying the suspects, determining the degree of interference with desirable plants, and how to manage the pest. Then, ongoing assessment and prevention of future invasions are also essential to the process. To better help identify pests, observe what is happening with the plants in a given area. Are there visible insects chewing on leaves, or is there goo arising out of the bark of a tree? Observations will help target research as to what the pest is.

Once the pest has been identified, assess the amount of damage — is there an army of caterpillars chewing on your favorite plum tree, or just one or two that can be easily picked off and removed? Get out in the garden often just to observe and see how things are growing. If the army of caterpillars is beyond what can be tolerated, a management strategy can then be planned.

Integrated Pest Management offers several tools in the armory — some a bit more involved than others, but all within what home gardeners can do. Biological control is observed as the pest’s natural enemies help control the population of the pest. For example, an abundant aphid population may be kept at bay with lady beetles (also known as lady bugs) or other beneficial insects.

Cultural controls are achieved by modifying normal plant care activities to reduce or avoid pest problems. Examples are changing irrigation practices to only water the plant — not the weeds, or planting disease resistant species of plants. Mechanical control utilizes materials or physical means to kill or block out pests. Examples are gopher traps, mulch to suppress weeds, trimming infested branches from a tree, etc.


Chemical control includes the use of pesticides or other chemicals to control a particular pest. Integrated Pest Management recommends that chemical control be used in combination with other approaches and only when necessary for more effective long-term control. Selection of a pesticide is recommended only in ways that are the least toxic to people, non-target organisms such as bees and other beneficial insects, and the environment.

Careful consideration of chemical pesticides requires close observation of what is going on in the garden — perhaps other components of Integrated Pest Management would be effective enough to decrease the pests. It is essential that any use of chemical means to control pests be done carefully, incorporating other pest management strategies in combination with chemicals. Read all instructions and ensure the chemical is the most effective for the pest in your garden. Observe all safety practices and use only the recommended amount to control undesirable pests.

Finally, Integrated Pest Management includes ongoing evaluation of the method used. Are the pests gone, or is there a tolerable population? Observation and prevention – keys to Integrated Pest Management.


To learn more about some weedy garden pests, plan to attend the upcoming workshop, “The Wonders of Weeds.” This free public workshop will be held on Saturday, June 1 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Demonstration Garden, 1036 West Main St. in Grass Valley.

Coming up on June 22 is “Garden Makeover – Lawn to Landscape” also from 10 a.m. to noon at the Demonstration Garden. Starting this month, Master Gardeners will be available to answer home gardening questions at the Saturday Grower’s Market at the North Star House in Grass Valley.

We are also available Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon at the office in the Veterans Memorial Building, 255 South Auburn St. The contact number is 530-273-0919.

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.

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