School IPM Best Practices

Outdoor BMPs: Planting Beds, Gardens

Best Management Practices for Planting Beds and Gardens

Integrated pest management is the practice of using knowledge, monitoring, recordkeeping, and communication to reduce pest risk with the least amount of pesticide use possible.

Weed and Disease Control for Planting Beds and Gardens:

  • Deal with weeds when they are small and less established
  • Understand the nature of the weed plant: what is its life-cycle? How does it spread? Why does it favor this type of site? Is it shallow or deep-rooted?
  • Determine a threshold for weed tolerance. (Example: No field bindweed but ignore hawkweed)
  • Increase knowledge of weeds such as how to recognize a grassy weed from a broadleaf weed
  • Establish a management plan for long-term success based on thresholds and treatment options
  • Aim to remove complete plant and root when weeding
  • Understand how frequent soil disturbance can deter some weeds and encourage others
  • Consider options of low-maintenance ground cover which outcompete weeds in a troublesome area
  • Reduce sunlight on soil with mulch
  • Remove weeds by hand with possible
  • Don’t walk in wet gardens (to reduce spread of plant disease pathogens)
  • Choose the right plants for your site
  • Pick disease and insect resistant plants when possible
  • Don’t over fertilize
  • Rinse garden tools with water; use a 10% bleach solution on tools that may have come in contact with plant disease pathogens
  • Don’t loosen soil in perennial beds where you aren’t planting (reduces risk of bringing weed seeds up to the surface)

Best Management Practices Specific to School Vegetable Gardens:

  • Light raking in garden beds often destroys young annual weed seedlings.
  • Choose the best mulch for your site: plastic or polyester weed barrier (has some pros and cons), newspaper, cardboard (secure with rocks, clean soil or cover with straw), straw or grass clippings (has some pros and cons), shredded bark mulch. (see resource below)
  • When possible, reduce space between plants to shade out soil and therefore reduce weed seed germination –this works well with wide row planting of leaf lettuce, carrots, beets, radish, snap beans, and onions (will require thinning later in season)
  • Amend soil with compost (purchased or created as part of gardening project)

Best Management Practices specific to Ornamental Beds (Perennial Flowers and Shrubs):

  • Avoid using donated plant transplants which may contain weed seeds or diseases in their soil or on their leaves
  • Reduce space between ornamental plants to shade out soil and therefore reduce weed seed germination—many plants will tolerate crowding, transplanting or dividing later
  • Choose the best mulch for your site: living mulch (low growing ground cover) plastic or polyester weed barrier (pros and cons), newspaper, cardboard (secure with rocks, clean soil or cover with straw), straw or grass clippings, shredded bark mulch.
  • Use coarse mulch like shredded bark to reduce water-borne spread of fungal diseases
  • Restore bark mulch often—aim for complete coverage at about 2"
  • Amend soil with compost
  • Don’t be afraid to divide plants, prune them back or remove/transplant

Common Pests

Resources (PDFs)

For More Information