Natural Lawn & Pest Control
The Province of Ontario's Pesticide Act, in force as of April 22, 2009, regulates the use of cosmetic and chemical pesticides across the province.
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Your Lawn: Care That It's Pesticide-Free
Pesticide-free lawn and garden care is a growing field and there are many products allowable under the pesticide legislation to help you keep your lawn and garden healthy. Lawn care companies and professional gardeners are also developing expertise in this area.
- Enrich your soil with compost.
- Spread grass seed in the spring and fall.
- Keep your grass at a healthy height.
- Water deeply (but less frequently).
- Use mulches and compost in your garden.
- Plant a variety of flowering plants to attract birds and other natural enemies of plant pests.
Basic Natural Gardening Methods:
- Use soil solarization and have the sun's heat kill your weeds and soil pests: put a clear plastic tarp over the area you want cleared of weeds or insects and let the hot July and August sun go to work. Early spring is the best time to dig a trench around an area you intend to solarize.
- Aerate your lawn by poking holes in it with a pitchfork or using a core aerator.
- Fertilize using an organic fertilizer like compost, manure, corn meal — depending on the pH of your garden's soil. A lawn care company, plant health specialist, or organic gardening site can give you a good idea of what kind of fertilizer will help your garden.
- Compost your yard waste and kitchen scraps like coffee filters, egg shells and vegetable peels, to get free fertilizer.
- Use endophytic grass seed to help develop a low-maintenance healthy lawn resistant to many types of bugs and tolerant of a variety of stresses.
- Plant clover. Clover lawns are more resistant to pests and diseases, and clover competes with other broadleaf plants, which in turn reduces the amount of manual weeding necessary to maintain a green, healthy looking lawn.
- Grasscycle. It's easy. Leave the grass clippings on the lawn and they will release nutrients into the soil.
- Use liquid kelp to encourage growth. It's a popular natural growth supplement for plants and gardens.
Trouble Shooting Tips:
Here are a number of pesticide-free solutions to common garden problems. You can also refer to the list products allowable under the legislation. Lawn care providers, plant health experts, or organic gardening sites may also be consulted for other allowable treatment options.
- Grubs. Pull up a brown patch of lawn and you may find you have grubs. You can repair grub damage by raking the area, applying compost or topsoil and putting down grass seed. Nematodes (a biological pest control product) can also help control most grub species - as well as more than 250 other soil-dwelling pests.
- Cinch bugs. A sunken area of dead grass may have cinch bugs. To find out if you have cinch bugs: cut both ends off a large can (like a coffee can) and press it halfway into the soil; fill it with water and see if cinch bugs float to the top. Cinch bugs are small (4mm) and can be red or dark brown. If you have a large number of cinch bugs (more than 20), you can try vacuuming the affected area with a workshop-type vacuum and then watering it.
- Aphids. Plant a variety of flowering plants to attract ladybugs. They eat aphids. Special soaps containing fatty acids, allowable under the Bylaw, can be used control aphids.
- Dandelions and other weeds. A healthy lawn helps crowd out dandelions: aerate, fertilize, topdress and overseed your lawn with endophytic grass seed to keep it healthy. Raise the height of your mower blade and let the shade from longer grass blades prevent weed seeds from sprouting. Hand weed dandelions and other weeds, and mow them before they go to seed. You may also use corn gluten meal to prevent the germination of dandelion and crabgrass seeds. Weeds in sidewalks and pathways can be sprayed with horticultural vinegar or special soaps containing fatty acids.
Products Allowable For Outdoor Use
You may use these products on your lawn and garden. Look for them at your garden centre and read the label to make sure you have the right product to suit your needs and that its only active ingredient is on this list:
- Acetic acid: used for spot-treatment of weeds like dandelions growing in patios.
- Biological pesticides like Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki), nematodes and other biological control agents: nematodes are used to control grubs. Btk is used to control caterpillars, leaf-chewing larvae, mosquitos and black flies.
- Copper barriers (copper strips) : used to control slugs and snails (barriers and strips are exempt under the Pesticides Act and Regulation 63/09).
- Copper as elemental, present as tribasic copper sulphate: used to control diseases, such as black spot, powdery mildew, rust, scab, brown rot, leaf spot, black knot and peach leaf curl.
- Corn gluten meal: used to prevent the germination of dandelion and crabgrass seeds.
- Fatty acids: soaps made from the potassium salt of fatty acids are used to control insects like aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, slugs, earwigs, caterpillars and beetles. Some formulations control weeds (herbicidal soap).
- Ferric sodium or ferrous phosphate: used to control slugs and snails.
- Mineral oil (also called dormant or horticultural oil): used to control insects like red spiders, mealybugs, mites, aphids, scale, and whitefly.
- Soap: used to control insects like aphids, earwigs, slugs, whitefly, caterpillars, beetles and mealybugs. Some formulas kill moss.
- Silicon dioxide (also called diatomaceous earth — a crumbly, naturally occurring sedimentary rock): used to control insects like caterpillars, earwigs, beetles, leafhoppers and fruitworms.
- Sulphur (lime sulphur and other sulphur compounds used horticulturally): used to control insects like mites and whitefly as well as plant diseases like black spot, powdery mildew, rust, scab, brown rot, leaf spot, black knot and peach leaf curl.
The products on this list may be used alone or in combination.
Natural Gardening By Season
- Remove dead plants/parts of plants from garden and rake the lawn
- Add materials like compost, peat and manure to your soil — particularly garden beds
- Pull weeds
- Remove and compost dead leaves
- Consider preparing an area for soil solarization in July or August. Sharpen your mower's blade and set its height to 7.5 cm
- Watch trees for insects and remove any tent caterpillar nests
- Plant any new plants by the end of May and remember to put mulch on them
- Aerate your lawn by poking holes in it with a pitchfork or using a core aerator
- Fertilize using an organic fertilizer like compost and/or topdress your lawn with a dusting of quality soil
- Pull weeds
- Mow your lawn before weeds (like dandelions) go to seed
- Check brown patches for underlying grubs and repair damage
- Water the lawn every two to three weeks during dry spells. The City's summer water restrictions allow households with even-numbered addresses to water on even numbered days and those with odd-numbered addresses on odd days
- Do not cut the lawn during dry spells. A dry lawn that turns brown is dormant (not dead). Try to stay off a dormant lawn. It will turn green again after it rains
- Prune plants as necessary
- Pull weeds
- Replenish mulch
- Consider applying liquid kelp as a plant/lawn growth supplement
- Start soil solarization to rid an area of your yard with many weeds or insects
- Check sunken areas of dead grass for cinch bug damage and repair
- Make sure trees are watered during extended dry spells
- Aerate the lawn, overseed and topdress the lawn
- Consider using endophytic grass seed as these grasses are resistant to insects like chinch bugs
- Watch the lawn for insect damage after fall rains green up the garden. Repair any grub damage
- Clear, seed and water areas that you solarized
Late September to November
- Clean and winterize lawn equipment
- Grasscycle. It's easy. Leave the grass and mulched leaf clippings on the lawn and they will release nutrients into the soil
- Let leaves gather around the base of trees to protect tree roots