As part of your integrated pest management toolkit (IPM), preventive tools (also known as cultural practices) improve the growing environment in your yard. This in turn helps to grow healthy plants that can better tolerate pest damage.
By adopting all or some of the suggestions below, you can significantly reduce the level of pest damage in your yard:
Choice of plant cultivar
Select plants that suit your yard's growing conditions (sun/shade; dry/damp; windy/protected; alkaline/acid soil) since healthy plants are better able to resist pests. As well, you may wish to:
- Choose pest-resistant varieties of plants.
- Try companion planting, or an orderly mixing of plants. Supporters of companion planting claim that certain plants have the ability to protect other plants from insect damage. However, such claims have not been fully substantiated.
- Choose a variety of plants for your yard so if you get a pest on one plant, other plants will not be affected.
Healthy soil produces healthy plants. To improve clay soil, amend it with organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure. Working compost into the soil has 3 benefits:
- compost loosens up the soil so it is not rock-hard
- water drains better through composted soil
- the soil receives valuable nutrients from the compost
Some weeds and insects only thrive in certain soil and growing conditions. You may be able to prevent these pests by changing your soil's pH level, the amount of sunlight in the area, your soil temperature, or the soil's fertility level.
Fertilizer and irrigation practices
Proper use of fertilizers and water will assure healthy plant growth and increase the capability of plants to tolerate insect damage.
Keep plants healthy with proper maintenance specific to the type of plants that you have. This includes the timing of planting and harvesting, crop rotation, transplanting methods, spacing, watering, fertilizing, pruning, staking, and mowing practices.
Remove vegetable plant residues and weeds to eliminate a source of food and shelter for many insect pests such as cutworms, webworms, aphids, white grubs, millipedes and spider mites. When your garden plants stop producing, spade them into the soil or compost the plants.