Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Quick Tips

Garden Chemicals: Safe Use & Disposal

Published   3/12

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Correctly ID pests before applying a pesticide.

Correctly ID pests before applying a pesticide.

Personal protective equipment.

Personal protective equipment.

Donít pour pesticides down storm drains!

Donít pour pesticides down storm drains!

Pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides) are designed to be toxic to the pests they target. When used properly, pesticides can protect your plants or home from damage. However, when the label instructions arenít followed correctly, plant injury can occur, pests might not be controlled, human health might be impaired, and pesticides can contribute to soil, air, or water pollution. Fertilizer products also can have negative environmental impacts when they get into waterways. Use pesticides only when nonchemical methods are ineffective and pests are reaching intolerable levels, and choose the least toxic, most effective product.

If you must use garden chemicals:

  • Identify your pest problem and choose the least toxic pesticide that controls your pest. Examples include bait stations, insecticidal soaps and oils, and the microbial insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
  • Contact your UC Master Gardener or Cooperative Extension office for help identifying your pest or a pest control method.
  • Buy ready-to-use products rather than concentrates, when possible, as you don’t have measure and mix these.
  • Don’t water after applying garden chemicals unless the label tells you to do so. Never let pesticide or fertilizer runoff flow into storm drains.
  • Avoid applying chemicals outdoors when rain is forecast or when it is windy.
  • Don’t apply pesticides or fertilizers on paved surfaces.

When using and storing garden chemicals:

  • Always wear shoes, a long-sleeved shirt, pants, eye protection, and other equipment listed on the product label.
  • Properly measure concentrated formulations of pesticides. Keep all measuring tools for the garden separate from those used for food.
  • Never apply more product than the amount listed on the label.
  • Always keep chemicals in their original container and store them tightly capped in a locked cabinet out of the reach of children and pets.
  • For help in an emergency call your regional Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. Visit www.calpoison.org for more information.

Disposing of pesticides and fertilizers:

  • If you can’t use up your pesticides, fertilizers, and weed killers, consider giving them away.
  • Sewage treatment plants aren’t designed to treat for toxic chemicals. Pouring garden chemicals into a storm drain, down the sink, or in the toilet is never an option—and it is against the law!
  • The only allowable way to dispose of pesticides is to use them up according to label directions or to take them to a household hazardous waste site.

For the Household Hazardous Waste Disposal site nearest you, call 1-800-CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687) or visit www.earth911.com for more information.

Garden Chemicals: Safe Use & Disposal

Minimize the use of pesticides that pollute our waterways. Use nonchemical alternatives or less toxic pesticide products whenever possible. Read product labels carefully and follow instructions on proper use, storage, and disposal.


Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

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