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The ABCs of Integrated Pest Management

by David A. Birk

IMAGE: Perennial in bloomApproach — IPM, or Integrated Pest Management, is a multi-faceted approach to finding the least toxic method of controlling pests (certain insects, mites, fungi, animals and weeds) in our gardens. IPM uses many facets of horticultral lore and scientific experiment to plan a graduated method of attack that respects the environment.


  • A Safe Environment

  • for birds:
    Birds are particularly sensitive to toxins in the environment.

    for beneficial insects:
    Beneficial insects comprise 90% of all insects in the landscape. Only 10% are actually destructive. Of the destructive variety, more than 800 species have become resistent to one or more insecticides.

    and for us.

  • An Enriched Environment
    Birds and insects as well as plants enrich our landscape. Through IPM, we can all enjoy a richer experience.

  • A More Mature Perspective A rose with a hole in the leaf is still a beautiful flower and not a reason to sterilize the soil.


IPM uses our knowledge of pests' life cycles and habits, their natural enemies, plants' cultural needs as well as good gardening practices. For example, siting is an important tenet of IPM. Plants that occur naturally in the shade but are placed in the sun are easily stressed and will be among the first to encounter pest problems. Proper siting calls for placing plants in the garden as they grow in nature.

A Final Thought

Last May I hosted a tour of the Winterthur gardens for some noted entomologists, including Dr. Dewey Canon of the University of Delaware and Dr. Albert Wheeler of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. When we got to the Azalea Woods they were excited to hear that this area had not been sprayed with any insecticide for almost a decade. They had been prepared to find a lot of pest damage. They found, instead, very few pests and none that needed spraying, because the site was perfect for growing azaleas and rhododendrons. Good gardening combined with IPM works.

The late David A. Birk was a Horticultural Supervisor in the Horticultural Division of the Winterthur Garden Dept. In addition to being Winterthur's rosarian, he was the IPM coordinator for Winterthur. David passed away in August of 2008.

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