Pest Control Sum-Up: How Big Can My Sunflower Climb?

June 24, 2019

Pest control has been the topic of the month. There are many ways for gardeners to achieve acceptable levels of pest populations.


Pests may be microscopic, as big as Bambi or any size life form in between. When I first became a Master Gardener Volunteer, I attended an all-day workshop on the topic where I learned a mnemonic to help recall the various approaches to pest control: “How big can my sunflower climb?”


“H” is for “host.” Begin by choosing pest-resistant plants. This is particularly important for disease control. However, there are selections that are critter resistant as well.


“B” stands for biological controls, which primarily pit natural predators against their prey. Beneficial insects gobble up insect pests. Birds and bats help control flying insects such as mosquitoes.


“C” is for the cultural practices which make the environment less accessible or attractive to the pest. Crop rotation prevents pathogen and insect populations

from becoming entrenched. Irrigating at ground level early in the day keeps foliage dry so that pathogens are less likely to cause disease. Mulch prevents sunlight from reaching the weed seedlings as well as weed seed from reaching the soil.


(Photos, from top: Mulch is a barricade against, weeds, among other things; this weed will never produce seeds; and unacceptable Japanese beetle damage.)


“M” stands for mechanical, physical methods of pest control. Row covers keep insects off crops. I knock Japanese beetles into detergent-laced water. A bug zapper keeps mosquitoes away. Pulling or hoeing weeds prevents them from competing for water, nutrients and sunlight.


“S” is for sanitation. Remove diseased plant parts from the garden. Disinfect pruners after removing diseased limbs to prevent disease being spread to uninfected plants. Remove blooming weeds to prevent them from going to seed.


“C” stands for chemicals. Over the last two columns, I have discussed pesticide use in some detail.


The best pest control program begins with positive identification of the pest. Once the

 enemy is known, choose an array of weapons from the various categories to keep damage from pests in check.


Ain't no flies on master gardener Ann Bartlett, and ain't no pests on the ornamental beds surrounding her home. Not for long, anyway.You can email Ann at

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