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IPM: What Is It and Why Should You Care?

Sapsucker holes on the trunk of a tree. Taken by Alpine Tree, New Jersey

Many experienced gardeners and landscape professionals practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to make and maintain gardens that are healthy and vigorous, with low populations of pests.

Why use Integrated Pest Management?

Because IPM is a complete approach to gardening that can end your reliance on traditional pesticides while improving the health of your plants and trees, and the environment. What’s not to like about that?

Integrated pest management is about balance, attention, and response.

If your garden attracts beneficial insects that pollinate your plants and trees, and that eat or kill destructive insects, then you won’t have to kill them with pesticides. You’re not spending money buying pesticides each year and you get effortless, improved flowering and fruiting!

A bee pollinates apple blossoms

Attracting pollinators to your yard keeps it healthy

Another key component of IPM is paying attention to your garden. If you regularly take a little time to check your plants for insects and follow seasonal patterns of growth and emergence, you’ll be way more efficient at keeping pests in check.

Paying attention also means you’ll get more familiar with the best nutrition and irrigation for your particular garden, as these types of cultural controls help ensure your plants are vigorous and healthy. Healthy plants are more able to resist insect pests.

Practicing IPM means your garden will be safe for children and pets, you’ll save money, and the environmentally beneficial species we rely on will hang around. Read on to learn how IPM works!


There is no one single solution that can do it all in your garden. Instead, IPM combines several management approaches for long-term effectiveness. These approaches include:

  • Regular monitoring of insect pest populations
  • Using physical, biological, and cultural controls
  • Using organic, targeted pesticides only when needed and only in combination with other approaches and controls
  • Choosing pest- and disease-resistant varieties of plants and trees

In a complex, living ecosystem—of which your yard is part—total eradication of organisms is rarely desired. A better goal to focus on is reducing pest populations to a level where they cause few noticeable problems and don’t interrupt the natural patterns and habits of plant growth, beneficial insects, and pollinators.

Below, you can read more about the essentials of Integrated Pest Management.

Pest Monitoring

Part of the foundation of IPM is pest monitoring. If you spend a little time checking your plants and trees for insect pests, it’s easy to quickly control or eradicate a pest population while it’s still small. By regularly checking your plants and trees during the growing season, you can stop pests in your garden before their numbers grow out of control.

For example, let’s take monitoring for the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). This alien, invasive beetle species attacks and kills ash (Fraxinus) trees, including green ash (F. pennsylvanica), white ash (F. americana), and black ash (F. nigra). If you place and regularly check EAB sticky traps, you can find out if the EAB is present. If the EAB is found, its population estimate from the traps will inform you about what type of control is best. Early discovery means a smaller population of EAB, and more options for control.

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) tunnels on an ash tree

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has destroyed many ash trees

Biological Controls

Biological control means using natural predators, parasites, pathogens, and competitors to control damaging pests. There are lots of these that work to keep pest populations low.

Beneficial insects are the most commonly used biological control. Ladybugs and lacewings are common examples of garden-friendly, beneficial insects that will set up shop in your garden and eat aphids all day long.

A ladybug and water droplets on a blade of grass

Ladybugs work great as a natural pest control

Another example of a biological control is the parasitic wasp that is found in the native range of the Emerald Ash Borer in Asia. In its native range, EAB does not infest or wipe out native tree populations like it does here in New Jersey. Because EAB populations in Asia are controlled by the parasitic wasp, the beetle does far less damage to ash trees.

Cultural Controls

Cultural controls are garden practices that reduce or inhibit the establishment, growth, and survival of pests. Some examples of cultural controls include:

  • Using up or removing stacks of old firewood
  • Cleaning up debris and leaves from planting areas
  • Pruning off damaged or infested branches
  • Regularly rotating annual plants from one garden bed to another
  • Timing planting and pruning with insect pest life cycles, to avoid periods of insect emergence
  • Making sure your irrigation system is providing the right level of soil moisture
  • Adding compost and mulch to your soil to ensure its fertility

Mechanical and Physical Controls

Mechanical and physical controls kill directly or create an environment that is unsuitable for particular pests. If you put out sticky traps or scent lures, or wrap barriers around a tree trunk, you’re using physical and mechanical controls against insect pests.

Planting Pest- or Disease-Resistant Varieties

When you’re considering what you want to plant on your property, the first place to start is finding out if there are pest- or disease-resistant varieties of the species you like. Chances are that you’ll find some, as plant breeding for resistance is a long-established practice.

For example, there are many apple and crabapple varieties that have been bred to be resistant to apple scab. These include ‘Jonafree,’ ‘Liberty,’ and ‘Crimsoncrisp’ apples, and crabapple varieties ‘Sugar Tyme’ and ‘Autumn Glory.’ You can read more about selected apple varieties here:

And remember, choosing apple varieties that are generally vigorous and robust, and planting your trees with enough space around them, can also help with pest and disease resistance.

Organic Pesticides

As a last resort, IPM turns to the judicious use of organic pesticides. Organic pesticides include everything from insecticidal soap sprays to Neem oil and Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring bacteria) dust.

In order to call themselves organic, all pesticides must be approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). Look for the OMRI seal on pesticide containers.

Another benefit of these types of organic pesticides is that they have been developed to target particular pests or diseases, instead of an indiscriminate application designed to kill everything. It’s generally understood that organic pesticides that are part of an Integrated Pest Management program are less toxic than traditional neurotoxic pesticides. And they’re just as effective when they’re applied correctly and at the right times of an insect’s life cycle.

Ready to Get Started with IPM?

This attention to insect life cycles is one of the main reasons to create an IPM plan and regularly monitor the conditions in your yard. By using a scheduled IPM program, such as our Tree Health Management program, you’ll get insect pests under control and you’ll learn a lot more about your plants and trees.

If you are interested in developing an IPM plan for your yard but don’t know where to start, our professionals are here to assist you!

Give us a call at 973-964-7798 to schedule a site visit. We’ll do a thorough inspection, take a soil sample, and discuss options for a safe, effective program to manage and improve the health of your trees and shrubs.


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