Less Toxic Gardening: Gardening with Fewer Chemicals
Some garden supply manufacturers may want you to believe that a beautiful yard is only possible with a hefty dose of chemicals such as synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and weed killers. The truth is that a healthy, thriving garden can be yours without the excessive use of toxic products. With the right selection of plants you can attract beneficial insects that literally do the pest control for you because they feed on pests!
What’s wrong with pesticides?
The problem with pesticides is that they are rarely selective. That means that birds, pollinators like bees and butterflies and other beneficial insects are often far more sensitive to the chemicals than the insects you are trying to kill! For example, just one granule or seed treated with diazinon, a common household pesticide, is enough to kill a small bird. Pesticides pose a danger not only to wildlife but also to the health of our families and pets.
In addition, pesticides and other chemicals get washed off our lawns and into storm drains by rain and over-watering. From there they flow directly into our creeks and the Bay, harming fish and other wildlife, and threatening our clean water supplies. Most pesticides cannot even be removed at the sewage treatment plant.
Integrated Pest Management
There is a gentler and safer approach to keeping your garden pest-free! Integrated Pest Management (IPM) combines a number of common-sense practices to fight pest insects, minimizing the use of pesticides, or avoiding them completely. Following IPM practices you can:
- Identify the pest insect correctly and get to know its life-cycle so that you can choose the most effective treatment and best timing
- Adjust conditions such as soil pH, watering practices and plant selection to encourage beneficial insects and/or inhibit pests
- Use pest specific, biological pesticides that have very little or no effect on beneficial insects, and are safe for the environment.
How to dispose safely of garden chemicals
If you must use conventional pesticides, apply them sparingly and as a last resort. Store them in a safe manner and out of reach of children. Never dispose of leftover or unwanted pesticides in the sink, storm drain, or in the trash. Please take them to SVR’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility in Salinas.
Fact Sheets about Less Toxic Gardening
Learn more about less toxic gardening and how to combat specific pests using Integrated Pest Management practices. Visit the Our Water Our World website to download the most up-to-date fact sheets about less toxic gardening.
There are several stores in the Salinas Valley that offer less toxic gardening products as well as advice to help you make the right choice. Look for the “Our Water, Our World” logo on shelves and store displays, and for free fact sheets about less toxic gardening techniques. To find participating stores, visit Our Water Our World