A course of this scope can’t begin to make you a pest control expert. We will give you some basic advice, but if you have a persistent pest problem, try to learn more about the pest and deal with it in an informed way. There are many useful sources of information you can turn to, from websites to pest control experts.
Remember this simple bit of advice: Throwing a bunch of chemicals on your plants is rarely the best way to solve a pest problem. Most of the bugs in your garden are helpful, and you don’t want to kill them all. You should diminish the problem pest, but you want to avoid any solution that kills everything.
Basic pest control involves three steps:
1. Prevention: Healthy plants will be more resistant to the ravages of pest and disease, so keep your plants healthy. Much of this course is devoted to helping you grow healthy plants, so if you have a problem, go back through the course: make sure your soil is healthy, your plants are appropriate for your microclimate, and they are adequately watered, mulched, and fertilized. Plants under stress are much more prone to pest and disease damage, because their natural defenses are down. Prevention is by far the best way to deal with plant problems. It won’t keep the most determined critters off your plants, but it will keep most problems at bay.
2. Identification: Try to identify the pest. It may take some work, but often you can catch the pest at work: look under leaves, on the ground, check out the entire plant. If you can catch a pest and identify it, you have isolated your problem and made it much easier to solve. Imagine how much better information you’ll get if you tell your nursery that you have Japanese Beetles, instead of saying that something is eating your bean plants!
Of course, you won’t always catch your culprit. Sometimes you may think you have a bug and instead the damage was caused by a disease. Sometimes the pest only comes out when you aren’t looking for it. In this case, carefully examine the evidence and make a good note of it. Often, an experienced gardener or nursery expert can recognize the cause of plant damage by looking at the effects. Even in cases where the evidence doesn’t pinpoint a specific cause, you may narrow the list down to 2 or 3 likely suspects. That puts you much closer to a solution; then you can try a few different remedies that deal with each suspect.
3. Purging: Once you have identified the pest you can set about getting rid of it. Start out with the simplest step: pick the insects off the plant by hand, if you can. Some pests can be controlled with home-made traps or non-toxic sprays.
Failing a simple, non-toxic remedy, try a pesticide that is specifically designed for your pest. Use it according to the directions, and that should solve your problem. Some problems can have very effective, interesting solutions. Some may frustrate you beyond belief. Discuss your problem with several people who have dealt with it before, and read up on the pest. The knowledge won’t hurt, and sometimes you’ll stumble upon a remedy that is completely safe and easy to do.