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Get Ready for Spring: Go Pesticide Free!

Does all this snow have some of you daydreaming about spring and gardening?  

Luckily spring is just around the corner, and now is a great time to start planning a pesticide free yard, garden, and home! Pesticides are often used on lawns and in gardens to limit weeds and associated pests. Unfortunately, pesticides (including herbicides, rodenticides, insecticides, and fungicides) have negative health impacts on people and the environment. 

Being pesticide free means choosing methods of controlling these weeds and pests in ways that are healthy for the environment and for you and your family!  

Salt Lake City has been working with Healthy Babies Bright Futures since 2016 to reduce exposures to harmful chemicals—many of which we unknowingly come in contact with on a daily basis. A common source of harmful chemical exposure is through pesticides and lawn fertilizer use. Salt Lake City’s Sustainability Department partnered with Beyond Pesticides to create a public resource guide for a less toxic approach to pest management and lawn care.

Why are pesticides an issue? 

Chemical pesticide use and exposure have been shown to have negative health effects on humans. Serious health effects of pesticide exposure include birth defects, childhood cancer, acute poisoning, brain tumors, and asthma. Avoiding pesticides in your yards will help protect the health of our communities.

Recent studies show that most homes in the United States are contaminated with pesticides. Children are particularly vulnerable to chemicals due to their explorative nature and size. Children are also more prone to place potentially contaminated household objects, as well as their hands, in their mouths. Because of their smaller size, children are closer to contaminated surfaces on the ground which exposes them to more chemicals. Indeed, earlier this month, a congressional investigation found toxic chemicals in many baby foods that are connected to contamination and pesticide use.

Not only is a pesticide free yard healthier for us, it’s better for our local pollinators. Planting native and pollinator friendly plants as you prepare your yard will create an inviting space for important pollinators like bees and butterflies. Avoiding pesticides, especially those that are linked with colony collapse, will help your yard and pollinators flourish.

How to Avoid Pesticides:

Luckily, there are many ways to keep pesticides out of your yards and homes. Here’s 10 tips on how to avoid pesticides:

  1.  Improve soil health to facilitate healthy lawns and reduce weed growth. Add ¼ inch compost in early spring and early fall. Mix liquid molasses with water and apply to grass. This feeds the healthy microbes in your soil, which makes your turf and plants healthier. 
  1. Fertilize naturally by leaving grass clippings on lawn and mulching with leaves. 
  1. Aerate your lawn to avoid compaction. 
  1. Mow lawn to about 3-4 inches high. 
  1. Don’t overwater your lawn and avoid watering during the heat of the day. Give your lawn 1 inch of water a week in May and September and 1.5 inches a week in the summer. 
  1. Incorporate native plants into your landscape. Native plants are adapted to local conditions and aren’t easily out competed by unwanted plants. 
  1. Use natural pesticides. Neem oil or peppermint oil are great alternatives to chemical pesticides. 
  1. Incorporate Integrated Pest Management practices. 
  1. Declutter yard and home to discourage pests. 
  1. Remove standing water & open food sources to limit pests around your home.  

What can you use instead of a pesticide? 

You can get rid of aphids with a soap and vegetable oil mixture, neem oil, or even just soap and water mixed together as a spray!

We’re not saying you have to let your garden and lawn be taken over by weeds and aphids. There are lots of ways to reduce pests and weeds in your yard that are easy to make or find! 

You can take care of your lawn naturally. When you know you need something to help you out, try some of these ideas: 

  • Peppermint, thyme, and rosemary oil repellent: If you mix about 10 drops of each of these oils together in a spray bottle of water, you can spray it around your garden to repel flies, fleas, mosquitoes, cabbage looper caterpillars, aphids, squash bugs, white flies, ants, beetles, spiders, chiggers, ticks, and roaches. 
  • Vinegar: Take white vinegar and add a couple drops of liquid soap to it. On a sunny, dry day, spray weeds you don’t want to keep. Since this will kill plants, make sure not to spray anything you want to keep! 

Take the pledge to be pesticide free! 

We hope you will take the pledge and make a commitment to our health, environment, and ecosystem by going pesticide free! Take the pledge to not use any pesticides in your home and yard and we can send you a fun yard sign that you place outside to bring awareness to others. We offer a variety of resources on ways to go pesticide free to help you along the way. 

Sign up to take the pledge and receive a sign here! 

Have more questions? Reach out to slcgreen@slcgov.com

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. You haven’t said anything about how to prevent a lawn from being completely taken over by dandelions and other weeds.

    Also, aren’t you a city agency? The city is a huge user of herbicides such as 2,4-D in all the parks.

    February 16, 2021
    • Thanks for your engagement on the pesticide free initiative, Bruce. That’s correct– the idea behind organic turf management is not necessarily that all weeds will be eliminated (biodiversity is beneficial to soils, bugs, and pollinators) but that it is healthy and therefore healthy grass can inimize opportunistic and aggressive weeds. But ridding turf entirely of dandelions is not the goal.

      Yes we are a city agency (the Sustainability Department). We have been working with the Parks and Public Lands Division for the last several years on piloting organic turf management practices in city parks with the goal of transitioning to more sustainable practices as budget permits.

      You can read more at http://www.slcgreen.com/pesticidefree

      March 1, 2021

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