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IPM: Better Weed, Disease and Insect Control

IPM: Better Weed, Disease and Insect Control

Many questions are being raised concerning the widespread use of pesticides (insecticides for insect control, fungicides for disease, and herbicides for weeds). What is the risk to the environment, to birds and animals, to beneficial insects, and to humans, particularly children? To replace traditional means of pest control, a new attitude is gaining acceptance and being put into practice. This is called IPM – Integrated Pest Management.

A Healthy Garden Environment

  • One of the major reasons plants and turf succumb to insects or disease is stress which can be caused by prolonged periods (or years) of drought, high temperatures, too much or too little moisture, too much sun, overcrowding, and poor soil. The remedy to the first two is to water deeply when it’s hot and dry or grow drought tolerant plants.
  • To minimize disease when there’s too much humidity, water only in the morning, never in the evening and make sure there’s good air circulation around plants.dry weedy grass
  • The importance of fertile, well drained soil is immense. Adding soil conditioners every year like peat moss, sheep or cattle manure, vermiculite, gypsum to break down clay, and shredded leaf mould create a perfect growing medium. The absolute best additive is compost because it’s also a gentle fertilizer thus eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers. When plants are strong they can resist insects and disease easier.
  • By determining deficiencies in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, adjustments can be made so plants are absorbing what they really need. Soil pH can also be tested for acidity and alkalinity so appropriate plants can be selected for the condition or the soil can be amended.
  • A simple way to determine soil fertility is with a soil test kit which is available at our Garden Centre.

Insect Control

Every garden is full of insects. Some are beneficial; some are not. The important thing to keep in mind is that in a healthy environment there is usually a balance between the two.

  • Learn to accept small populations of aphids or spider mites, for example, if they’re not damaging plants.
  • Carefully observe all your garden plants regularly so you will know when an infestation gets out of hand and threatens an individual’s survival. It’s only at that point when more direct action is required.
  • In the case of scale, the ideal time to apply a spray is when it’s in its soft shell stage in August-September and also in early spring. The timeliness of treatment is as important as the insecticide itself.
  • Grubs in the lawn are a real concern. Rather than kill them with a chemical why not use beneficial nematodes that are like a natural predator? These microscopic insects invade a grub, deposit bacteria that ultimately kill them, and move onto the next one. As the population of nematodes increases so does their effectiveness.
  • There are a number of products available that cause minimal if any damage to the environment. BTK (Bacillus thuringiensis) has been around a long time for controlling caterpillars. Safer’s Slug & Snail Bait is effective and works quickly. Safer’s End-All is a canola-based solution that smothers rather than poisons. Insecticidal soap works the same way. Look at the full line of Safer’s and Green Earth products for safe controls.
  • To determine a solution, the insect needs to be correctly identified and its life cycle understood. Visit our Garden Centre for assistance in identifying any unknown problem.

diseased pear leaf

Disease Control

Some plants are naturally predisposed to certain diseases.

  • Roses can be prone to powdery mildew, rust, and black spot. You must work on this problem before the disease begins. Also avoid watering Roses in the evening.
  • Climactic conditions are a big factor in the proliferation of disease. A lot of rain over a prolonged period definitely sets up a perfect  breeding environment. Your best defense is to remove damaged foliage as quickly as possible. Dispose of it in your garbage, not your compost and do not let it sit on damp soil.
  • In the vegetable garden, rotate your crops from year to year to help inhibit the spread of disease. But remember, it’s just one season. No two years are ever alike and the following summer may be hot and dry with little evidence of any disease.

Weed Control

  • Weeds grow wherever there’s a gap. When a lawn is thin and in poor disposition it’s often overtaken with weeds.
  • A long-term goal should be thickening the turf by over seeding.
  • Aerating is appropriate too, so new 3-in-1 Planting Mix and compost can be added to the root system for a stronger, thicker turf.


moss between stones

  • Where grass won’t grow (E.g. in thhe shade of mature trees) plant ground covers such as Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans), Japanese Spurge (Pachysandra terminalis), or Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum). They form such a thick carpet weeds won’t be able to grow through.
  • Physical barriers are also effective. Landscape Fabric prevents weeds from growing through but it is still porous.
  • Cedar mulch and bark chips are excellent for preventing weed growth, minimizing evaporation, and keeping plant roots cool in summer.
  • Cutting plants back before they go to seed prevents dispersal. This is particularly true with dandelions, crabgrass, and thistles.
  • Also, if you have the time you can manually dig out the weeds.