An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy for lawn care is rooted in prevention rather than treatment, and a certain acceptance of some pests in the landscape without suffering significant damage.
The aim is to use selective plant selection and establishment combined with maintenance practices to promote, conserve and enhance natural pest controls. IPM is proactive rather than reactive.
A healthy, well-rooted turf can compete with many common weeds. Mowing high is another organic strategy aimed at shading out particularly troublesome annual weeds like crabgrass that require a certain amount of light to germinate.
Weeds are used as an indicator of other cultural problems, such as nutrient deficiencies or soil compaction, which should then be corrected. In addition, organic lawn care endorses the need for education aimed at acceptance of a certain level of weeds.
Disease management also focuses on providing optimal conditions to maintain the health of the grass and soil. Good drainage and proper soil pH contribute to the conservation of organisms antagonistic to pathogens.
Practices such as establishment of disease-resistant grasses, increased air circulation and avoiding watering at times when the grass will remain wet may all be used in attempts to prevent disease.
Natural and/or organic supplements may also be used to change an environment which favors the disease organism. Certain composts are disease-suppressive, although the particular organisms involved have yet to be identified.
An organic approach to pest management for damaging insects focuses on the least toxic controls. Avoiding broad spectrum pesticides that can affect non-target insects results in the maintenance of natural pests.
Biological controls such as predators and parasites can also be used in addition to natural organic sprays and dusts. Entomophagous (insect-eating) nematodes such as Steinernema carpocapsae parasitize the larvae of sod webworms and cutworms. Bacteria such as B.t. (Bacillus thuringiensis) can also be used against the sod webworm and the cutworm as well.
Botanical insecticides as rotenone and pyrethrum are also allowed as part of an organic pest control program. Emphasis on scouting and spot treatment reduces costs and overuse of even these more ecologically sound methods of organic pest control.
IPM is one way that a conscientious homeowner can control pests, whether they be weeds, insects or diseases, in a safe, yet effective way. Education is the key to knowing what is available and how to best implement these sound principles that will protect our environment, yet still allow us to enjoy many of the traditional aspects of a beautiful landscape.