Use Smart Pest Management
There are several approaches to natural pest and weed management that — when used together — can help avoid the need for pesticides and herbicides. Selecting plants adapted to our climate is the first step to avoid problems with pests, weeds, or disease. Here is a handy guide to planting for a healthy garden.
Other approaches include:
1. Cultural controls such as removing irrigation water and fertilizer from areas where you don’t want weeds to grow.
2. Physical controls such as manual removal with hands or tools, smothering weeds with a mulch barrier.
3. Biological controls such as selecting competitive, desirable plants that make it hard for weeds to grow, or attracting beneficial insects to control insect pests.
4. Less-toxic controls such as herbicidal soaps and vinegar can be used as a last resort.
A patchwork of native flowering plants and grasses will attract beneficial insects to your yard by providing food and habitat for them. Note that you’ll likely have to tolerate a low level of certain pests in order to attract their predators. Consider changing your perspective: If you envision your yard as a meadow with multiple grass species and a few noninvasive weeds, you can resist reaching for chemical herbicides. Check out the 10 Most Wanted Bugs for your garden.
All these techniques together are called “Integrated Pest Management” or IPM. For more information about IPM, visit the University of California website at www.ipm.ucdavis.edu.
The University of California has also developed a tool to help diagnose pest and disease problems.