How can we manage pests and diseases in the garden?
Possibly the most valuable approach to managing pests and diseases in an educational garden is approaching it with the realistic expectation that “if you build it, they will come” and to perceive each inevitable challenge as an opportunity to engage students in the reality of gardening. This is another area of gardening where you do not need to be an expert, but having a willingness to learn and teach are moreover an invaluable characteristic.
The Maine School Garden Network previously had a program called “Garden Health Engagement” to encourage garden leaders to approach these challenges with their students. The project was designed to inspire student involvement in identifying and overcoming pest and disease challenges in educational gardens using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) concepts. The mission of the program is to promote awareness of plant health resources and grow an understanding of the risks that threaten our food system. School visits were tailored to the teachers and/or students, grade levels, gardens, seasonal access and garden program objectives. Takeaways include:
- The garden is HOME to many insects, but not all insects are pests.
- It is critical to investigate the insects before making a decision on how to protect the garden.
- You do not need to be an IPM expert – exploration and student engagement in plant challenges is a valuable approach to problem solving pests.
- Pests are inevitable and building your “IPM Toolbox” is important – prepare ideas on how to manage these challenges in advance and engage students in research.
Garden visits empower students and teachers to perceive the garden differently; from exploring and thinking like an insect to considering the challenges and problem solving like a farmer. Participants consider the importance of the garden to the insects, recognizing that it was home to both pests and beneficial insects. Students scout (or observe pest samples) and discuss observations and options for protecting the garden. They learn the importance of first understanding how the insects work in the environment and how it relates to making educated decisions about protecting the garden ecosystem and their food. Students are typically amazed at how beneficial insects work to control pests in the garden and teachers are thankful to know that MSGN is a technical resource for this exploration. Moreover, participants cultivate an appreciation for what it takes to grow food and realize that while pests are an inevitable challenge in gardens they can be opportunities to engage in learning.
Here are some technical resources and curriculum connections that we recommend for managing pests and diseases in your garden. IPM lessons and resources are available by the Maine Department of Agriculture’s Maine School IPM Program K-12 IPM website.
- Sample School Garden IPM Plan
- Checklist for School Gardens
- Resources for School Orchards
- Sample School Greenhouse IPM Plan
Informative IPM Presentations
Here are a couple informative presentations on IPM and bugs in your garden by former MSGN Coordinator, Erica Verrier:
What’s Bugging Your Garden
- Discuss insects in the garden
- Observe some “pests”
- See some of their “enemies”
- Explore tools for investigating insects
IPM Fits All Gardens
- What is IPM?
- What are the secrets to success?
- How does IPM work?
- What are some examples of IPM at work?
- What is our IPM “Toolbox”?
- How do we choose controls?
- How do we practice successful IPM?
- Why is IPM a smart approach to school gardens?
More Information About IPM
We have offered site visits and programs in IPM in the past based on grant funding. Currently Maine Agriculture in the Classroom is managing this program. For more information about this program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Integrated Pest Management program.
The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program takes an active role in promoting and supporting the use of IPM–best management practices that emphasize quality production and health while minimizing reliance on pesticides.
Why teach about pests and pesticides?
Insects, weeds and other critters can affect people, our food and our environment in important ways. Teaching about IPM provides an engaging way to apply scientific concepts to everyday situations, including:
- How can we avoid tick and mosquito bites?
- Why are bees important?
- How can we keep pests from eating our school garden plants?
Lessons are organized by topic:
For more information, call Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry IPM department at (207) 215-4793.