Pesticides are any types of chemical or spray that are used to control things that can be classed as ‘pests’. These can include chemicals to stop slugs from eating your lettuce, keeping fruit flies at bay or trying to control and eliminate the weeds on your path. The term ‘pesticide’ actually covers a broad range of products all of which are used to control plant pests. Therefore, they include weedkillers, slug pellets, animal repellents, insecticides, fungicide sprays, plant growth compounds and lawn and grass treatments.
Which Pesticides can I use in my Garden?
Most pesticides that are sold in DIY stores and garden centres have been approved to be used by gardeners at home unlike many other pesticides, such as those which are used on farms. Those kinds of agricultural pesticides can only be used by people who have had appropriate training.
For home use, your local DIY store or garden centre should be able to advise you on suitable household pesticides to cure a particular problem. It’s also important to read the label and to check if the product will actually control the problem you have.
Each year, however, manufacturers may withdraw some pesticides used by home gardeners. It’s not always due to safety regulations but, should a manufacturer do this, they will give a product an expiry date after which it cannot be legally used. However, in most cases, there will be other pesticides available to cure the same problem.
Follow the instructions on the label to the letter. It will explain how to use the product safely and any special precautions you might need to take. For example, you may need to wear a breathing mask, wear thick gloves or keep pets away from the treated area for a specific length of time or you may have to wait a certain time before you can safely consume any fruit or vegetables you have treated.
If the product needs diluting, do so in accordance with the instructions. Never be tempted to make it a bit stronger. This could actually damage the plant or lawn area you’re treating. If you’re applying slug pellets, spread them thinly to avoid risks to wildlife and pets, especially dogs.
After you have completed your treatment, make sure that the packaging is tightly closed or sealed. Store it in a safe place, clearly marked and away from pets or children. Pesticides are best stored at an even temperature so, contrary to popular belief, garden sheds or greenhouses are not ideal as they can get very hot in summer and very cold in winter. However, a garage that doesn’t get too cold might be the best place but if you do decide to store them somewhere in the house, make sure the containers are clearly marked, that children know they are highly dangerous and to stay away from them and never transfer any contents into things like lemonade bottles or use any container which children (and even adults) might mistake for something else. If you store it correctly, any remaining pesticide can be used safely for years to come, although if the date has expired, you should check whether the product can still be legally used. Your DIY or garden centre should be able to advise you on this.
Disposing of Pesticides
Pesticide containers that have held concentrated product (i.e. requiring dilution before use) can be rinsed out thoroughly and disposed of with your usual household waste. Those that are already diluted and are empty do not have to be rinsed out and can be disposed of as above.
Remember it is illegal to dispose of any unwanted pesticide down your drain whether it’s diluted or not. If in doubt about what you can and can’t dispose of yourself, contact your local environmental health department who can advise you. They can also tell you whether or not they have any special procedures for collecting and disposing of hazardous household waste.
Alternative Pest Control Solutions
Before you buy any pesticide solutions, ask yourself if the treatment is really necessary. For example, if you only have a few dandelions or daisies on your lawn or there are just a handful of garden weeds, couldn’t you just remove them with a knife or garden fork instead? As for slugs and snails, how big a problem is it? If there are only a few, perhaps you could pick them up with a shovel when they come out at night and dispose of them that way.