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“Pests Bugging You?”

By Dave Tamayo, County of Sacramento Department of Water Resources

One key to maintaining a garden without major pest problems is to think of it as a small ecosystem, one where you play a central role in managing the flow of energy and resources. Unlike a completely wild ecosystem, factors like plant diversity, nutrients, water, light exposure, and pollution are largely controlled directly or indirectly by you.

In the wild, virtually all insects that attack plants are held in check by an array of natural enemies like other insects, spiders, and birds. Instead of buying natural enemies at the nursery (like ladybugs), it’s more effective to design your garden to attract and maintain natural populations of beneficial insects. Most importantly, don’t use pesticides! Pesticides can cause pest outbreaks by killing off natural enemies. Certain plants, known as “insectary plants” attract natural enemies by providing food in the form of nectar and pollen. Some of these plants also attract butterflies and hummingbirds. A diverse array of plants, rather than many individuals of the same kind, can help control insect outbreaks and the spread of plant diseases.

Many River-Friendly landscaping practices contribute to keeping insects and other pests from gaining a foothold. Maintaining soil health and having proper watering practices are very important. By avoiding synthetic fertilizers (chemical fertilizers), you improve soil health, which in turn supports healthier plants that can resist insects and diseases. Synthetic fertilizers can easily cause an overabundance of new growth that is especially vulnerable to attack by insects. Finally, selecting pest resistant varieties, inspecting for disease and insects before purchase, and ensuring you have the “right plant for the right place” are all important for having healthy, pest free garden. Please visit these other resources for more information on how to control pests:

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Watch the YouTube video
"Slow the Flow - Make Your Landscape Act Like a Sponge"
to learn about the importance of landscaping to stormwater quality.

The Seven Principles of
River-Friendly Landscaping

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