Integrated Pest Management for Tomato Plants

integrated pest management

Too often home gardeners reach for chemical controls without really knowing what they are and if they are really necessary. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) was developed to provide an environmentally friendly way to control pests.

Integrated Pest Management is using well researched environmental information and the best pest control methods to prevent pest damage by the most economical means with the least possible damage to the environment. The basic premise of IPM is to use the least damaging methods to control insects and disease and only resort to chemical controls when other methods have been exhausted. Savvy commercial growers use IPM and we home gardeners can learn from their success. Common practices of IPM Programs that can be adopted by the home gardener include:

  • Scout for pests and disease. Check early in the morning and look carefully under the leaves and at the bases of the plants. Put up with a few pests and a little damage rather than reach for chemicals every time you see a bug or damage on a plant. For example, I rarely do anything when leaf miners invade the leaves of my tomato plants except to pluck the offending leaves and destroy them. If you don’t see any insects look signs and symptoms of pests such as spots on leaves, curled leaves or frass (insect secretions.) Keep records of pest infestations, disease symptoms and weather conditions.

  • Identify pests or diseases correctly (remember 99% of all insects are not pests and many are beneficial.) Take a magnifying device, a white sheet of paper and jars to save insects with you to the garden. Tiny dark colored insects how up much better on white paper and the magnifying glass will help you determine whether you have a good or bad bug! Also remember that pests spread disease.

  • Don’t apply any controls unless you know what you are trying to control. Then use the correct product for the problem following the manufacturer’s instruction. For example, if the pest you are trying to control lives on the underside of the leaves as many pests do, you must spray the undersides of the leaves. Try biological or organic controls first such as Dipel or Spinosad. The idea is to apply the least evasive to the environment controls. Remember pesticides kill all good and bad insects and you want as many beneficials as possible to live in your garden.

  • Remember that many diseases cannot really be “cured” only contained. If a plant has a virus or one of the many fungal diseases, often times the best thing to do is to remove the plant. Be sure to dispose of it where it will not infect other plants. These diseases can overwinter in yard trash!

Too often pesticides are used incorrectly and cause more damage than they prevent. It is very possible to be environmentally sensitive and have a delicious crop of vegetables. So before you reach for the chemicals, try the Integrated Pest Control Methods.

Comments from Other Gardeners
  • Nick says:

    I garden organically and use very few controls of any kind. My strategies are to encourage the beneficial insects by planting flowers and letting things go to flower in the garden. I also mulch heavily and pluck off leaves of plants as the touch the ground. If I see any signs of disease or insect damage, I just pick off the offending leaves. If the plant looks really bad, I discard the whole thing. Simple but it works for me. I have beautiful vegetables. didn’t know there was a name for it!

Share Your Experience