The Four T’s [2022]

The “4T” approach to managing insects in the garden and orchard is a decision-making and tool-choosing…um, tool…that encourages swift and informed pest management actions.

The following four steps, which all conveniently start with the letter T:

  • Know your target
  • Figure out your timing
  • Use the right tool
  • Adjust your technique to the given situation so you are optimizing the chance that your tool will work.

Four of the five fingers on this hand correspond to the four T's.

This approach helps organize the decisions you make and products you choose or plan to use….and encourages developing a plan to use these tools properly, effectively, with foresight and with the health of our environment in mind.

The Four T’s

  • Target. Before you do anything, figure out the a. species and b. life cycle stage of your target.
  • Timing. Find out approximately when your insect will be emerging, and (again) when during the growing season the stage of its life cycle you are targeting typically appear. Timing has a lot to do with insect degree days…which are units of heat and time bundled together.
  • Tools. Know your target and timing? Then select the right tool. This basically means if you are an organic grower, you will find out which pesticides or other tools are allowed for organic food production. If you are not a certified organic grower, but still want to use pesticides with low toxicity that have short residual times and are compatible with human food consumption, you have options.
  • Technique. Finally, each tool will be more or less effective depending on how you use it. Insecticidal soap, for example, can be sprayed on the underside of leaves for better control of aphids, scales, and plant-feeding mites. Insecticidal soap with neem oil might be even more effective because of its dessicant and antifeedant properties. Using insecticidal soap with neem tree oil on a dry windless day will be more effective than using it during a rain storm.

Related links

Common plant pests

Image library – plant feeders, parasitoids, pollinators, etc.

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