Garden without pesticides

Natural yard care

Natural yard care

Make your yard healthy and beautiful - without working too hard!

Build healthy soil with compost and mulch. They feed beneficial soil creatures that improve soil structure and recycle nutrients. This help soil store water and prevent pests and diseases.

Plant right for your site. Sun and shade, wet or dry soil, and slope all affect how plants grow. Choose plants that will thrive where you garden and that resist insects and diseases. Group plants by their needs for water, sun and soil.

Practice smart watering. Problems are caused by over- and under-watering. Water deeply and let the surface of the soil dry before watering again. This promotes deep healthy roots.

Learn to live with a few insects. Most bugs in your garden are actually helpful. Trying to kill them all eliminates the beneficial insects too, making problems worse.

Practice natural lawn care. Lawns need less than you think to thrive. Look for easy to use tips in the Natural lawn care section.

For links to in-depth information beyond this website check out our Resources section.

If you choose to use pesticides, pick a safer product using the brand-name product rankings in the Grow Smart, Grow Safe product tables.

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Stop before you spray!

Stop before you spray!

Good bugs in the garden:
  • Eat harmful insects
  • Pollinate fruit trees and berries
  • Decompose plant waste and breaking it down into fertilizer
  • Serve as food for birds and animals that also eat pests
  • Aerate and improving your soil

The good bug guide is a photo guide to beneficial insects. Learn before you spray. The bug you kill could be a friend.

Good Bug Guide - (hover over or click the image to read more about ... )

When you use toxic pesticides, you kill both good bugs and bad. That gives the bad bugs a helping hand because they usually reproduce faster. That means you’ll have to work even harder to control pests later.

Use pesticides as a last resort. Use effective non-toxic methods and over time you’ll reduce pest numbers and plant damage.

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Target your action if pests appear

Target your action if pests appear

"Pests" can be:

  • Problem insects
  • Weeds
  • Slugs and snails
  • Critters like deer and moles
  • Plant diseases such as black spot

Pesticides can create more problems. Identify the problem and your options to deal with it. Start by trying the tips in this guide before deciding to use a pesticide.

Traps, barriers and hand tools can work as well or better than pesticides. Simple steps like more sunlight or less water may solve your problem.

If you use garden chemicals:

  • Buy in small amounts.
  • Use ready-to-use products instead of concentrates.
  • Avoid combination products like weed and feed.
  • Spot-spray only on targeted pests, don’t broadcast-apply pesticides over large areas.

If you choose to use pesticides, pick a safer product using the brand-name product rankings in the Grow Smart, Grow Safe product tables.

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Why care about using pesticides?

Why care about using pesticides?

Pesticides include some of the most hazardous chemicals used at home. Products that kill pests can be hazardous to children, pets, birds, fish, and other wildlife.

Buying safer products will encourage manufacturers to make safer and more environmentally sound products. Using non-toxic products will help protect your family, your pets and your local streams.

Pesticides, human health and the environment

Pesticides can be carried inside on shoes and mix with house dust. Young children, who crawl and put objects in their mouths, can then ingest the chemicals.

Rains wash pesticides off of yards and carry them to streams.

Pesticides and children

Children under six are involved in nearly half of the acute pesticide exposure incidents reported to US poison centers.

Children are also vulnerable to repeated, very small, unintended exposure to pesticides.

Pesticides and pregnancy

Chemicals are known to collect in the bodies of humans. Studies looking at human health effects of pesticide exposure suggest potential concerns including difficulty conceiving, birth weight, and more.

Cancer hazards

There may be a relationship between pesticide exposure and cancer. You can reduce your risk of cancer eliminating pesticides in your home.

Hormone disruption

Pesticides may interfere with animal and human hormone systems, potentially affecting reproduction and development. The extent to which human and wildlife health problems are caused by hormone-disrupting chemicals is not yet known.

Water pollution

Many insecticides and herbicides are toxic to fish and aquatic organisms. Monitoring studies in the Puget Sound and Portland metropolitan regions find common pesticides and fertilizer nutrients in the waterways.

Toxicity to birds and bees

Toxicity to birds and bees

Most insecticides are toxic to good insects and bees. Some researchers believe that pesticide use may be implicated in honey bee colony collapse disorder. Birds can also be affected by exposure to insecticides.

Chemical persistence

The longer a pesticide remains in the environment, the more likely it is to do damage. Pesticides break down at different rates. Some like DDT are still toxic in our environment 40 years after being banned. Most modern pesticides break down more quickly but sometimes the breakdown products are also persistent or toxic.

Danger to pets

Many pesticide products are toxic to dogs, cats and other pets. Pets may pick up pesticide residues on their paws and fur, licking it or tracking it into the house.

Slug bait containing metaldehyde poses a special risk because dogs are attracted to it and may eat enough to be seriously injured or even die.

To learn more and to see references for information in this section see our Resources section.

If you choose to use pesticides, pick a safer product using the brand-name product rankings in the Grow Smart, Grow Safe product tables.

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Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Simply put, IPM is Natural Yard Care. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a sustainable approach to managing pests that employs physical, mechanical, cultural, biological, educational, and sometimes chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health and environmental risks.

Professionals follow the steps of IPM in a cycle to continuously improve the landscape and minimize pest and disease problems.

  • Keeping soil healthy.
  • Keeping plants healthy and properly pruned.
  • Learning to identify the plants, weeds and insects (good and bad) common in the region.
  • Regular monitoring to determine if, when and which IPM tools should be used. Monitor to detect and identify potential problems early when they are more easily treated without chemicals
  • Establishing action thresholds. Small numbers of pests or weeds are often best treated with environmentally safe cultural or mechanical methods. A few pest insects or weeds don’t usually require the use of chemical controls.
  • Using non-chemical methods of control first and keeping track of how they work. Use mulch, pull weeds, fertilize lawns, use water spray or sticky traps, clean up diseased leaves or try a variety of other biological, cultural or physical controls.
  • Limiting the use of pesticides and choosing them carefully. Pick products with the lowest overall risk and hazard to human health and the environment.
  • Evaluating how the control methods work, modifying practices and adapting new strategies.

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