The major pests we deal with are insects, weeds and fungal diseases. A pesticide is a product, whether organic or chemical, used to kill the target pest. Insecticides are used for insect control, herbicides are used in weed control, and fungicides control fungal organisms.
It is important to remember that the use of pesticides is only one method for controlling pests. There are other techniques gardeners should use that can help prevent the severe infestations that make the use of pesticides necessary. Minimizing the use of pesticides, whether they are chemical or organic, is always a good idea.
Make it a point to inspect your landscape frequently for developing problems. Weed control is a prime example where early intervention is far easier and more effective than letting a situation get really bad before taking action.
One of the best defenses against pest problems is to keep your plants in tip-top condition through good culture. Good culture includes proper spacing when planting, and planting the right plant in the right location where it receives the proper soil, drainage, water, light and nutrients.
An excellent way to avoid insect and disease problems is through plant selection. Simply choose plants that are well adapted to our climate, those which have been bred and selected for insect and disease resistance and those that are simply not prone to major problems. If you have a plant or plants that constantly seem to have something attacking them despite your best efforts, consider removing them and replacing them with plants that you have found to be more care free.
In vegetable gardens and annual flower beds that are replanted from season to season, crop rotation is important. Planting the same type of plants in the same bed year after year can cause a buildup in the soil of disease organisms that use that plant as a host. Plant different things in your garden in different places every year whenever possible.
Proper sanitation is another important factor in controlling insect, weed and disease problems. Always keep your yard, gardens and adjacent areas as weed-free as possible. Fruit and fallen leaves infected with disease should be raked up, bagged and thrown away.
Some disease organisms live in the soil and are splashed onto plants by rain. The application of mulch to soil under plants can reduce incidence of these types of diseases. This is especially helpful when growing fruit and vegetable crops like tomatoes, squash and strawberries.
Mulches are also the best way to save work and reduce the use of herbicides to control weeds in beds. Weeds are certainly a leading garden pest. Weed control, whatever method you use, is always more effective when done regularly and before the weed problem becomes major.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture