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Physical Tools

As part of your integrated pest management toolkit (IPM), physical controls, such as the use of barriers or hand-picking, can help reduce both weeds and insect pests. Physical tools can be used alone or in combination with other tools to obtain desired results in your yard.

Weed control

  • Hand-picking
    • Hand-pick weeds after you water or a rainstorm since the water softens the soil.
    • Use a table knife or dandelion digger to remove dandelions, which allows you to remove the plant's tap root.
    • Rake chickweed from the soil or lawn.
    • Pull other weeds, such as thistles, pigweed, and plantains by hand from the soil.
  • Boiling water
    • Stop the growth of weeds between patio stones, bricks, or sidewalk blocks by pouring boiling water on the plants.
  • Soil solarization
    • Soil solarization is a process where you use the heat of the sun to control weeds, insects and diseases in the soil and is best done in June and July. To solarize your soil, ensure your soil is slightly damp (water lightly if dry). Lay a sheet of clear plastic (1 mils to 6 mils) over the area being solarized. Bury edges of the plastic sheet 30 cm deep into the soil. Leave plastic sheet on soil for a month to a month-and-a-half.

Insect and disease control

  • Hand-picking
    • To control caterpillars, leaf rollers, and galls when infestation levels are low, hand-pick the insects off your plants or remove the leaves/branches where the pests are located. You can also scrape egg bands off of branches. (If you miss some, don't worry. Most trees and shrubs can withstand a certain amount of defoliation.)
    • Hand-pick slugs as they feed on plants before dawn or after dusk.
    • Sweep or vacuum large concentrations of maple bugs (boxelder bugs).
  • Pruning
    • Prune diseased branches to eliminate or delay the spread of such plant diseases like fire blight or black knot.
  • Erecting barriers
    • Reduce cankerworms by banding your elms, Manitoba maples and fruit trees each spring and fall. To band your tree:
      • Purchase fibreglass insulation (15 – 20 cm wide), plastic wrap or black garbage bags, duct tape and some type of sticky substance (axle grease, Tanglefoot, Stick-em)
      • Wrap a strip of fibreglass insulation around the trunk about 1 to 2 metres above the ground.
      • Cover the insulation with plastic and secure with duct tape.
      • Cover the plastic with your sticking agent.
      • Regularly re-apply your sticking agent and remove debris to ensure effectiveness.
      • Remove your band after mid-May and again in mid-November to keep your tree bark in good shape. (Save the insulation for the next banding season.)
  • Trapping
    • Trap flying insects, such as wasps and flies, using items like wasp traps or fly paper.
  • Covering vulnerable plants
    • Create protective mesh covers for small fruit trees, berry bushes, tomatoes and other plants which will keep out larger insects and birds.
  • Water Spray
    • Use your garden hose at full power to knock off insects such as spider mites, aphids, pear slugs and caterpillars from your plants.