Spring is almost over, and our landscape plants look like they have gotten a good start for the new year. Soon the higher temperatures and humidity, not to mention frequent afternoon rain showers, will be upon us and our plants. Are you ready to manage the pest in the your landscape?
There are nine principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL). When I think of managing pests in the landscape, I consider two of those principles: “Right Plant, Right Place” and “Manage Yard Pests Responsibly.”
“Right Plant, Right Place” seems like a no-brainer. But how may of us are pruning plants on a regular basis because we did not apply this principle when we planted those plants. If we had, then the maintenance chores would be very infrequent. The plants would grow to fill in the space we provided without interfering with our view out the front window or complaints from our neighbors for a plant growing out of bounds. Additionally, pest management would be less of a chore. There would be sufficient air flow around the plants to stave off possible fungal infestations and beneficial organisms could get to those few pests that would show up from time to time.
The sensible approach to pest control is to create a natural balance of organisms in your yard or garden. In a diverse ecosystem, pest populations are naturally regulated. Development of this balance at your home relies on using products that minimize harm to beneficial organisms.
Once upon a time, it was a common practice to keep plants healthy by broadly applying chemicals to control pests. Now we know that although pesticides play a role in plant health, they also have limitations. Additionally, pesticides may give only limited and temporary control as well as environmental and health concerns if they are not integrated into an overall maintenance program. This is where the FFL principle “Manage Yard Pest Responsibly” comes into play.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) uses multiple tools to protect the garden and landscape from pests. You will want to provide effective pest management with the least negative impact to the environment and beneficial organisms. Organic or synthetic chemicals may be necessary but not without some thought.
When implementing IPM to manage pests in the landscape, the first step is to identify the pest. Is it really a pest or just a nuisance? Is it possible for you to accept some level of pests as part of a healthy and natural landscape? If there is no significant damage, is pest control necessary? Without proper identification, you really can’t determine the best control measure. Once the pest is identified, you can determine its life cycle, the stage of growth when it is most destructive and the stage of growth when it is most susceptible to control.
Ask yourself, “Why is the pest present?” It may be protected from natural predators because the plants were planted too close together. By altering the environment, it may be easier and more effective to remove a few plants so the pest will no longer have a safe haven from natural predators. There may be other reasons the pest is present. You may have to investigate more.
There are also key pests and key plants. To assist you, there are a number of publications available for you to view at “ask ifas.” For example, you will most assuredly have to deal with the Azalea caterpillar, Azalea Lace Bug and the Azalea Leafminer if you plant Azaleas in your landscape. However, if you keep your Azaleas healthy, planted in the right location with correct spacing and adequate moisture and nutrients, much of the damage these pests cause will not have as great an impact as they would if they are planted too close together, in the full sun and a high pH soil.
There are a number of other landscape plants to consider: Crape Myrtle (Crape Myrtle Aphid), Hibiscus (Pink Hibiscus Mealybug), Oleander (Oleander caterpillar), Magnolia (Magnolia white scale), Palms (Palm leaf skeletonizer, Palmetto weevil), Pines (Pine bark beetle, Pine sawfly and Pine tip moths) and others. Many of these plants do very well in our landscapes and there is no need to shy away from them now that you have the tools to manage those pests in your landscape.