Integrated Pest Management
The Integrated Pest Management Program at The Butchart Gardens
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a decision making process using a combination of pest management techniques to suppress pest populations in effective, environmentally sound ways. Cultural, mechanical, biological and chemical controls are all used to help manage pest problems both preventatively and through intervention when necessary. IPM also involves creating healthier plants through better growing practices and monitoring those plants regularly for problems so the problems can be correctly identified and dealt with in a timely manner.
We have had an IPM program in place in our production greenhouses for over 20 years and have been actively implementing this program for the past 10 years in our outdoor garden areas. One of our goals has been to improve our soil management program and this has been achieved by regular soil testing, amending of soils and using more specific fertilization throughout the gardens to obtain optimal growing conditions. The vast majority of the fertilizer we use in the garden is either fully organic or organic based and as a goal we would like to be completely organic. We have spent a lot of time properly spacing plants to allow airflow and light, and we have removed plants that have historically been pest or problem plagued. Over the past few years we have also been evaluating ‘compost tea’ for its disease and pest control abilities. The tea has had a very positive effect on the soil health and plant health. Improvements being made to our irrigation systems continue as we make modifications to ensure optimum distribution to benefit plant health. These cultural practices along with the introduction of biological controls have helped to dramatically reduce our dependency on chemical pesticides.
Biological Control involves the use of natural enemies to control pests and diseases. Some examples are:
- Aphid control achieved by releasing predators, such as aphid eating ladybugs
- Fungal control by spraying with a fungus that attacks the pest fungus
- Releasing predatory mites to control pests such as spider mites, thrips and whitefly
- Drenching the lawns with nematodes to control the population of cranefly larvae
A typical year of pest management involves winter and early spring applications of Dormant Oil to help control over-wintering pests and diseases on our trees. A natural bacterium called BtK is used to specifically control leaf eating caterpillars and slugs are now dealt with using an iron based product that is safe to all other creatures and is actually a beneficial amendment to the soil. Weed control, within the gardens proper, is done manually without the use of herbicides. Preventative releases of predatory bugs are carried out as required throughout the spring and summer in areas of early pest activity. If weather conditions are favourable for disease outbreaks, we monitor and apply control measures as necessary.
Our goal is to create the healthiest environment for our plants, our staff and for our visitors.