Safe use of pesticides is of increasing concern to gardeners in the United Kingdom as the awareness of their affect on people and the environment becomes more widespread. This article will look at alternative methods of pest control but if it is necessary to use pesticides then it’s essential to use them safely.
Pesticides are used for a number of different purposes in the garden, not just weed control and defence from attack by pests such as insects, fungi, disease and animal damage, they are also used in rooting powders, growth regulators and lawn treatments too.
Are Pesticides Necessary?
This is the first question to ask. Pesticides are sometimes used simply because that’s the usual step but increasingly gardeners are questioning their use and looking at alternatives.
Taking slug and snail control as an example, physical barriers are far better for the environment than slug pellets. Many gardeners use slug traps baited by beer or other attractive substances or go out at night, when slugs and snails are at their most active, and simply pick them up by hand.
Similarly look at weeds. Is it necessary to spray poison over they whole area or could the weeds be removed by regular hoeing or forking of the ground?
Both these examples do of course indicate that alternatives to pesticides are often more labour intensive. Commitment to keeping pesticides out of the food chain is required to embrace many of these alternative methods.
Safe Pesticide Storage
If you have assessed the alternatives and decide that pesticide use is the best way forward for a particular problem then use that pesticide as safely as possible.
As many pesticides are dangerous to people and pets if they are consumed, keep pesticides in a safe place They should preferably be in a locked cupboard but if that’s not practical at least put them on a high shelf.
Keep them in their original packaging and check regularly to make sure they are still within the ‘use by’ dates. They should be stored in a place where the temperature remains relatively constant (i.e. not a shed or garage) as the extremes of hot and cold through the year can cause pesticides to go off.
Many pesticides come in a concentrated form that is diluted with water to make up a solution. When using this sort of product only make up as much as you are likely to use. If you must store a made up pesticide, clearly label it with the product name and what it’s used for, although it’s far better not to have any excess at all to avoid accidents.
Using Pesticides Safely
Always read the instructions for any product and make sure that you are using it in the right way for the right pest or condition. In particular make sure you follow the safe handing guidelines on the packet, wearing gloves, masks or other protective clothing as advised.
We’ve already talked about the dangers of keeping surplus made up pesticides but if you do end up with some left over and want to dispose of it, make sure you check on the approved disposal method rather than just flushing it down the drain.
Try to Avoid Pesticides Completely
Although we would urge great care with pesticides, as some can be very dangerous, trying new methods of pest and disease control that avoid pesticide use completely is a far better approach.
Look at the Royal Horticultural Society’s website or the government run www.pesticides.org.uk site to find alternative methods of controlling pests and diseases.