How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Composting

Composting is an excellent way to destroy most crop and weed residues around the garden and landscape and to control pests that may harbor in the residues. The compost may then be used as a mulch or incorporated into soil to add to organic matter. Composting must be done correctly to assure the destruction of many serious plant pathogens and weed seeds. If followed correctly, the composting method will control all insect pests, nematodes, most pathogens with the exception of heat-tolerant viruses such as tobacco mosaic virus, and most weeds and weed seeds with the exception of oxalis, bulbs, burclover seeds, amaranthus seeds, and cheeseweed seeds.

Composting

Requirements for adequate decomposition

  • Woody material should be chopped to .5- to 1.5-inch bits.
  • A mixture of equal volumes of green plant and dry plant material will normally achieve a proper carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of 30 to 1.
  • Do not put soil, ashes from a stove or fireplace, milk or meat products, or manure from meat-eating animals in the compost.
  • A pile should be in bins at least 36 by 36 by 36 inches to assure adequate heating. Maintain a temperature of 160° F, turn the pile every 1 to 2 days, and add nothing to it once the composting process has begun. If temperatures do not get up to 160° F within 1 or 2 days, the pile is too wet or dry . If too dry, add water. If not enough nitrogen, add green material.
  • A healthy compost will have a pleasant odor, give off heat as vapor when turned, have a white fungal growth on the decomposing material, will get smaller each day, and change color to dark brown. When no further heat is produced the compost is ready to use.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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