REVIEW: IPM for Gardeners
Agroecology in the garden
An explanation of IPM principles and practices for home

Reviewed by Tianna DuPont


IPM for Gardeners: A Guide to Integrated Pest Management

Raymond A. Cloyd, Philip L. Nixon, and Nancy R. Pataky; Timber Press, 2004; ISBN 0-88192-647-7; 204 pp.; $27.95 (hardcover)

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January 7, 2005: IPM for Gardeners: A Guide to Integrated Pest Management is exactly what its title promises: a gardeners' pest management manual that doesn’t just describe recipes for treatment, but instead offers a broader understanding of how plants, insects and pathogens interact—or in other words, the information necessary to understand why IPM strategies are effective and how you can put them to use. As such, it has potential value not just for gardeners but also for small-scale or beginning farmers who are looking for an accessible introduction to the principles and practices of IPM.

Whereas conventional pest management often means simply, “What do I spray?” IPM strives to reduce pesticide applications by focusing on plant health, early detection and long-term, ecologically oriented management methods. Although usually not strictly organic, IPM relegates pesticides to a position of last resort. At the garden scale, many would argue that IPM need not involve the use of pesticides at all. Cloyd, Nixon and Pataky—all research and extension personnel from the University of Illinois—walk a middle road between outright condemnation of pesticide use and advocating unrestrained use.

The first half of the book is devoted to three chapters on garden ecology: "Plant Needs," "Disease Needs," and the "Needs of Insects, Mites, and Mollusks." This basic biology lesson forms an essential foundation for understanding IPM on the garden level. From the effects of light stress on your garden plants to the nutrient needs of insects, details of garden biology are presented clearly and simply, emphasizing the need for understanding the ecosystem of your garden in order to minimize pest impacts.

Next comes a chapter on identifying and assessing pest problems, from recognizing feeding types and frass deposits to using traps to gauge population levels. Recommended management strategies are divided into three chapters, one each for cultural (choosing plants less susceptible to pests, mowing and pruning properly, protecting against cold weather damage), physical (traps, handpicking, solarization, row covers), and biological (encouraging and releasing beneficials, planting trap crops) methods. A short chapter on "Conventional and Biorational Pest Control Materials" emphasizes the hazards of pesticide applications, including resistance, secondary pest outbreaks, and impacts on natural enemies. Finally, a chapter on insect and disease association recommends methods of handling insect-vectored diseases like aster yellows, oak wilt, and bacterial leaf scorch.

Like all Timber Press books, IPM for Gardeners is a handsome and lavishly illustrated book. It includes 149 color plates in addition to dozens of black and white photos, tables and graphs. Suggested further reading, a glossary of technical terms, and a cross-reference of common and scientific insect and disease names are included as appendices. A series of sidebars throughout the book highlight information on topics such as the nitrogen-pest connection (p. 73), monitoring for spider mites (p. 87) and pruning to control fire blight (p. 122). Throughout, the authors write in an accessible, straightforward style that is a pleasure to read.

The authors' goal is "to provide a broader view of IPM – to discuss how all the components of IPM work together to prevent or minimize insect and disease problems in home landscapes and gardens” (p. 169). Well packed with case studies, this volume illustrates the how and why of plant pest interactions. If you are out to understand the biology of your garden—not just find a recipe to kill those pesky insects—you should find this book both enjoyable and rewarding.

It should also help give home gardeners a deeper appreciation of the significance and potential of IPM in commercial agriculture and horticulture, perhaps leading them to seek out nurseries using IPM when they buy bedding plants, or to advocate for IPM implementation in their local school districts, municipal parks, or places of employment.

Tianna DuPont was an intern at The Rodale Institute in 2004.