There are many reasons to not treat our lawn or garden with pesticides (including weed killers). A little bit of determination and changing our expectations can go a long way to reducing or eliminating outdoor pesticide use. This can include increasing our tolerance to a few bugs or weeds, or taking the time to understand why a certain bug or weed is present and fixing the underlying problem.
Safer, Pesticide-Free Insect and Weed Control:
- Use non-toxic or less toxic methods for both pest or weed control.
- These can include mechanical or cultural methods, safer products or natural predators such as ladybugs or nematodes. Use the Beyond Pesticides Pest and Weed Database to find your pest or weed and learn how to safely control it.
- Choose fertilizers and mulches that do not contain herbicides or insecticides. If you need fertilizers, avoid "weed and feed" products as they contain harmful herbicides. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, natural or plant based fertilizers are great choices that are slow release and improve soil health. Some mulch products are treated with herbicides, so be sure to read the ingredients before purchasing.
Solutions for Mosquitoes
The removal of standing water and/or the use of biological larvicide such as Bt can control mosquitoes without causing harm to beneficial insects. To learn more about mosquito control, download this fact sheet from Beyond Pesticides, titled "Backyard Mosquito Management, Practices that do not poison you or the environment."
Let go of the idea of the "perfect lawn." The "perfect lawn" is a monoculture that is only achievable with a great deal of harmful chemicals and water usage. Instead, move towards a healthy lawn and soil system that doesn't require harmful chemicals and is safer for the whole family and for wildlife. Consider leaving some clovers, dandelions, and wildflowers for bees and pollinators to forage. White clovers are especially beneficial as they also add nitrogen to the soil, reducing the need for fertilizers. If you are concerned about bee stings, mow the lawn to remove flower heads before people enter the lawn area.
Homeowners can take simple steps to move towards organic lawn care or ask their landscapers to implement organic lawn care techniques. These resources are from Beyond Pesticides, a national non-profit organization that works to protect public health and our environment from pesticide exposure:
- Organic Lawn Care 101: Use these simple steps to convert your lawn to organic, or ask your landscaper to implement for your lawn.
- Read Your Weeds, A simple guide to creating a healthy lawn: Create a healthy lawn that will be less work in the long run. Weeds can tell you a lot about the condition of your lawn and indicate what you need to do to grow healthy grass that is naturally resistant to weeds and pest problems.
- Least-toxic Control of Weeds: Learn how to manage weeds through prevention, mechanical and biological options, and least-toxic methods.
Non-chemical, organic gardening and landscaping practices is always best option for people, pets, wildlife, and our environment. However, if chemicals are needed as a last resort in the case of difficult to remove invasives or out of control infestations that will be detrimental, use a targeted pesticide that breaks down quickly. Always read and follow the labels exactly.