How to Do the Best Organic Pest Control with Integrated Pest Management [IPM]

By on July 03, 2012

Use organic pest control and IPM for a luscious vegetable garden.

New organic gardeners are often most enthusiastic about and most worried about organic pest control.

These gardeners want to stop using chemical sprays on their plants—on the other hand, they’re afraid insects and diseases will run amok if they can’t blast away with the conventional poisons.

Organic pest control

One of the major differences between organic gardening and conventional gardening is in pest control. Conventional gardeners often wait until an insect, animal or disease appears, and then bring out the heavy artillery to eradicate the problem—a short-term answer.

Organic gardeners are supposed to take a holistic view of the ecosystem in the garden and use techniques year-round to make sure the garden is a healthy one—a long-term answer. Naturally derived toxic sprays are the last resort.

What is Integrated Pest Management [IPM]?

Universities like UC Davis, that formerly focused on conventional farming and gardening methods, have shifted and now teach a long-term system called Integrated Pest Management. If you look at each word you’ll quickly get the picture of how to garden with fewer poisons and fewer pests.

Integrated: No plant is an island and it has a relationship to the soil conditions (including microorganisms), insect life in the garden, and nearby plants and trees. A problem with one plant is a red flag that there may be an imbalance affecting other life forms in the garden—and the solution needs to take the whole garden into account.

Pest: Plant diseases, and unwanted insects or animals show up in almost every garden, organically maintained or not.

Management: Interesting, isn’t it, that the universities chose the word management instead of eradication? Organic gardening promises reduced levels of diseases and pests—and if organic controls cannot remove a problem completely, the garden philosophy is to tolerate a small amount of damage. The conventional gardening solutions might actually eradicate the disease or pest—and in the process would also eradicate beneficial microorganisms and insects.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a systematic way of dealing with pests. IPM starts with the least invasive, organic methods.

Pesticides are a last resort in both organic pest control and Integrated Pest Management. The difference is that the pesticides in organic gardening are all naturally derived, but Integrated Pest Management also suggests an array of chemicals.

Integrated Pest Management does allow conventional chemical sprays as a last step, when all else has failed. Organic pest control does not take that last step.

Learn more about organic pest control and Integrated Pest Management

In our video Tricia gives an overview of Integrated Pest Management.

Take an armchair tour of gardening with IPM in our blog post about using IPM through the garden year.

Use organic pest control in the Integrated Pest Management system for a well-structured way to keep your garden healthy.

  Comments (6)


Good Morning! 

I have a question regarding “critters” in my garden. I have a persimmon tree that my father planted years ago and it offers tons of fruit year after year.  A couple of years ago the squirrels/racoons/tree rats seem to have discovered that they like them too.  Unfortunately, they have begun to enjoy them earlier and earlier and now they disappear from the tree before they even begin to ripen.  This has begun to happen with the unripe oranges on my tree as well.

Now, I don’t mind sharing.  They can have all the fruit they want at the tops of the trees but it seems like the only thing they will share with me are the half eaten fruit that escaped while being eaten, which of course are littering the ground below.

I would like to plant an avocado tree but I fear that it will be attacked as well.  May I ask what you do to keep some fruit for yourselves?

Thank you for your time and any advice that you can offer.

Posted by kathie on Oct. 17, 2012 at 8:43:04 AM

Kathie, That is a tough problem. Here is what UC Davis has to say about it. “It is virtually impossible to keep squirrels out of fruit or nut trees because of their superb climbing and jumping ability. Sometimes if there are other unprotected fruit or nut trees available to the squirrels, you can protect the crop of a single tree by netting it as you would to exclude depredating birds. While squirrels can readily gnaw through the plastic netting, they may not persist if sufficient alternative food is easily available.” Here is the link for more info about dealing with tree squirrels  We do have the Bird Netting UC Davis mentions. Wishing you good luck! Let us know what happens.

Posted by on Oct. 17, 2012 at 4:39:59 PM


Hi there,
This year I am having a problem with tent caterpillars.  I’ve cut branches from trees only to find a week or so later that there are 3 or more new nests established.
They seem to have no natural predators.  I’ve been told they will strip a tree in no time. 
I would like to know if there is another way to deal with them as some of my trees are too tall to clean up. 
Thanks for your great information!

Posted by Judy on May. 18, 2013 at 7:56:27 AM

Judy, The UC Davis IPM site is our favorite. First step is always to ID the pest (although it sounds like you have)—here is a link to ID the tent caterpillars

Here is the IPM on how to fight tent caterpillars

and here are our products that do the fighting

Posted by on May. 20, 2013 at 4:09:08 PM


We live outside of Austin, Tx and we have over 500 blackberry plants as the berries start to ripen the stink bugs are stinging the blackberry.  What would be the best way to get rid of those pesty things? They do affect the taste of the berries.  Cathy

Posted by Cathy Miller on May. 22, 2013 at 4:02:31 AM

Cathy, Stink bugs are awful. First thing to do is ID which one is in your garden. Here is a link to Texas A&M with good photos (click on them to enlarge) UC Davis in California has tips on control We have a product that is labeled to combat the consperse stink bug

Posted by on May. 22, 2013 at 10:43:55 AM

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