When your garden or lawn is invaded by insects, fungus or weeds there are many commercial pesticides available to get rid of the problem. They include herbicides which kill weeds, insecticides which kill insects which feed on plants and fungicides to kill fungus such as powdery or white mildew.
Pesticides contain toxic chemicals designed to kill pests. They are also toxic to humans and pets and harmful to the environment.
A single exposure to these chemicals through inhalation, ingestion or contact with the skin can result in a sore throat and/or cough, an allergic reaction, eye and skin irritation, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, or headaches.
Multiple exposures over a period of time, even at low doses, have been linked to serious diseases such as: Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, depression and anxiety, several types of cancer, including breast cancer, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, autism, birth defects, learning disabilities such as ADHD, reproductive issues, and type 2 diabetes.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women and children of all ages are at a higher risk of harm from pesticide exposure. The womb is a child’s first environment. Pesticides in the mother’s blood are passed on to the unborn child through the umbilical cord resulting in irreversible damage which can affect their future development even in adolescence.
Babies crawling in areas which have been treated with pesticides or putting contaminated objects in their mouth increase their exposure to these toxic chemicals. They can also enter their bodies in the air they breathe. Children take in more air, water and food relative to their body weight which increases the effect of pesticide exposure. The systems which enable adults to cope with these chemicals are not yet developed.
Tips for using pesticides safely
If you decide to use commercial pesticides you are responsible for using them carefully to limit exposure to humans and pets.
Health Canada offers the following General Safety Precautions to Homeowners:
• Always read the label carefully. You must follow all safety precautions described on the product label to protect your health, the health of others and the environment.
• Generally, pesticide application should only be done when there are no children, pregnant women, elderly persons, pets or animals present.
• Never mix or combine different pesticides together unless the label instructions say to do so.
• Use a pesticide only for its intended purpose, for example, never use a pesticide indoors when it is intended for outdoor use.
• Do not apply pesticides directly to people, clothing or bedding, except when told to do so on the label (like when using personal insect repellents).
You can download a Fact Sheet of these safety precautions at:
Pesticides Banned for Cosmetic Use in Manitoba
In an effort to reduce pesticide exposure, some provinces, including Manitoba, have banned the use of pesticides such as glyphosate (roundup) for use on lawns and adjoining areas (sidewalks, driveways and patios) of residential, commercial, government and institutional properties. This restriction also applies to properties around schools, hospitals, daycares, playgrounds and any area where children play or have access.
These toxic chemicals are still allowed for agricultural use and by municipalities for such uses as road allowances.
Allowable chemicals for use in commercial garden products in restricted areas ( see above) include:
• Corn gluten
• Fiesta chelated iron (currently used in lawns on residential properties in Manitoba)
• Bio-pesticides (Derived from plants, animals, bacteria and certain minerals)
• Environmentally friendly herbicides including vinegar, herbicidal soaps, potassium salts, ammonium soaps, and sodium chloride (salt).
Products containing these chemicals are available at plant nurseries and if used as directed are safe for children and pets.
An alternative option to using commercial products is to use non-toxic alternatives to deal with pests.
• The best way to deal with weeds safely it to is to hoe them down or dig them out.
• You can apply a layer of mulch such as natural wood chips, compost or grass clippings around your plants to prevent weed seeds from germinating or use landscape fabric under gravel or stone on garden pathways, driveways, patio stones etc. to prevent weeds from growing through.
• Planting wide rows of plants in your vegetable garden will shade the soil and prevent the sun from reaching the plants
• Disturb the soil as little as possible to avoid bringing new weed seeds to the surface
• Fertilize and water carefully so you don’t apply these nutrients to weeds
• Make your own weed killer to eradicate weeds in cracks on driveways, between sidewalk stones or along the foundations of buildings. (see recipe below)
Recipe for homemade weed killer
½ gallon white household vinegar
½ bottle lemon juice
½ cup mild dish soap
Mix and spray on unwanted weeds
• Note of caution This is a non-selective mixture and will kill all plants sprayed
Natural Remedies to Control Insect Pests
• Spray with strong jets of water
• Attract natural predators like ladybugs by planting flowering plants such as sweet alyssum. Some plant nurseries sell ladybugs for this purpose
• Plant basil, coriander, dill or chives or marigolds. Strong scents repel aphids.
• Pour boiling water and detergent down the nest
• Spread coffee grounds around the nest
• Brew mint tea, cool and pour into the nest
• Sprinkle the nest with 1part powdered sugar to 1part baking soda
Cabbage Worms (White Butterfly Larva)
• Mix I part baking soda and I part flour. Sprinkle on cabbage, kale or broccoli. Repeat after a rain.