Pesticides Frequently Asked Questions

What is a pesticide?

  • Pesticides are products used to kill plants, insects and plant diseases. Pesticides used on lawns and gardens include herbicides (which kill plants), insecticides (which kill insects) and fungicides (which kill fungi).

Are pesticides necessary to maintain a healthy, green lawn and landscape?

  • No! Organic lawn care practices create a healthy soil, filled with a variety of beneficial organisms that naturally create conditions for a healthy lawn. We also must learn to enjoy the natural diversity in our lawns.

What are the most important steps in organic lawn care?

  • Aeration and overseeding with endophytic grass seed are the most important steps in maintaining an organic lawn. The endoyphyte is a natural bacterium distasteful to insects and its cost is similar to regular seed. After pulling out a weed, drop some grass seed into the hole.

What are optional lawn care practices for a healthy lawn?

  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer in the fall and spring. Have the pH of your soil professionally tested. Add lime if it is below 6.0 and gardener's sulfur if it is above 7.0. How much topsoil do you have? See how deep a shovel will go into the soil. How deep can you dig a hole in one minute? If you have less than four inches of soil, you must add topsoil.

Are there any products that I can use to get rid of pests and weeds?

  • It is possible to use certain lower risk products to control pests and weeds. These products must be or must contain only the following "active ingredients":
    • A soap
    • A mineral oil, also called dormant or horticultural oil
    • Silicon dioxide, also called diatomaceous earth
    • Biological pesticides including Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) and nematodes
    • Borax, also called boric acid or boracic acid
    • Ferric phosphate
    • Acetic acid
    • Pyrethrum or pyrethrins
    • Fatty acids
    • Sulphur
    • Corn Gluten Meal

What do you do if you have a serious weed infestation?

  • Consider mowing twice as frequently as you normally do. The sensitive growing point for grass is near the soil. The sensitive growing point for most weeds is near the top of the plant. So when you mow, it's as if you are giving your grass a haircut and cutting the heads off of the weeds.

What can you expect from an organic lawn?

  • Organic lawn care is more than the absence of chemicals. It is a process that combines careful observation and analysis, safe and nutritive product inputs and effective maintenance techniques. Creating fertile soil and naturally resistant grass takes time, but it is well worth the wait. The results are a healthy and sustainable landscape.
  • The process involved in achieving this healthy state will depend, to some degree, on the previous methods used to care for the turf. Lawns that are being transitioned from a chemical to organic approach may experience "withdrawal" type symptoms such as poor nutrient uptake, poor drought resistance, and susceptibility to weeds.
  • The more intensive the previous chemical and maintenance regime, the more challenging the transition. However, each organic step along the way improves soil quality, not to mention environmental well-being. Be patient. The complete transition may take up to five years but in the end you will have a healthy, vibrant lawn that is:
    • A healthier environment for property owners, visitors and passersby
    • A more welcome habitat for pets, birds and butterflies
    • More lush and vibrant than its chemical counterpart
    • Very easy to maintain with reduced watering and fertilizing requirements

Fall is the best time to do major lawn maintenance. Why?

  • If you could fertilize only once a year, fall is clearly the best time. Vigorous growth in the fall helps build root systems and stores energy in the roots. With fall feeding, grass overwinters better and gets off to a good start the following spring. Fall is also the best time to establish a new lawn from seed. Since most annual weeds (including crabgrass) do not sprout in the fall, turf has a chance to get established without competition from weeds.

How do I dispose of pesticides?