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Pesticides (weed and bug killers) can damage soil and plant health, poison wildlife like birds and salmon, and harm our families health. The good news is that we really don’t need those chemicals to grow a healthy, attractive landscape. Try these natural methods.
The problem could really be incorrect mowing or pruning, improper watering, or other easily corrected practices. Or that scary bug could actually be a beneficial “good bug” that eats problem pests. Whether it’s a bug, disease, or weed, you need to identify it to know how to effectively manage it.
Natural predators often bring pests under control, but they need time to work. Most bugs are good bugs: only about 5% of the bugs in your yard are pests. “Good bugs” like ground beetles, lady bugs, and lacewings help control pests. Don’t spray at the first sign of damage – nature may control it for you, or plants often just outgrow the damage.
If you must use a chemical pesticide, use the least toxic product, and spot apply it – don’t spread it all over the yard to kill a few weeds or bugs. It may be best to have a professional who has all the protective gear do the application, but don’t use services that spread chemicals over the whole yard or spray on a calendar schedule. You want to apply pesticides only when and where you really have a problem. Follow label instructions exactly – more is not better. And be sure to keep children and pets out of application areas.
If a plant, even a tree, has insect pest or disease problems every year, it’s time to replace it with a more pest-resistant, site-adapted variety or another type of plant that doesn’t have these problems.
Natural Pest, Weed & Disease Control (pdf) - Guide to a chemical-free yard.
Alternative Pest & Weed Control Methods (pdf) - More techniques for natural controls.
Grow Smart Grow Safe - Lists safer products.
Contact the experts at the Garden Hotline at (206) 633-0224 (language interpretation available) or email firstname.lastname@example.org for free brochures, expert help in identifying “good bugs,” and solving your insect pest, weed, or plant disease problem.
Integrated Pest Management - Factsheets on common pest problems and effective, less toxic solutions.
Disposal of Pesticides and Other Hazardous Products - Learn where to safely dispose of pesticides – then don’t buy more!
IPMopedia - Pest identification and least-toxic solutions for home gardeners.
UC IPM - University of California integrated pest management solutions for landscapes and agriculture.
NCAP - Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides – advocacy and science-based alternatives factsheets.