Monday, April 27, 2009

Ontario’s Pesticide Ban Takes Effect

Following in Quebec’s footsteps, Ontario became the second province in Canada to ban the cosmetic use of pesticides. The ban, which took effect on Earth Day, covers over 250 products and more than 80 pesticide ingredients and covers applications on lawns, gardens, parks and schoolyards.

“We have fulfilled our commitment to ban the sale and use of cosmetic pesticides in Ontario,” said Ontario’s Minister of the Environment, John Gerretsen. I'm proud to say that we have eliminated this unnecessary risk to our environment, our families, and especially our children.”

The ban is intended to replace the many municipal bylaws that have been passed throughout the province. Exceptions include applications that are deemed necessary to protect public health or safety. These include fighting West Nile Virus, controlling poisonous plants such as poison ivy and eliminating stinging insects.

Making the transition to a chemical-free lawn can take a bit of time and effort, but in the long run it’s less work. Natural lawns need less water and fertilizer and are less likely to succumb to chinch bug and lawn diseases. They also need to be cut less frequently.

Step 1 – Water deeply once a week

Most lawns actually get more water than they need. Over watering causes shallow roots, which can leave lawns unable to tolerate dry periods. A deep watering once a week creates a well-rooted lawn that makes efficient use of the water stored in the soil. The best time to water is first thing in the morning. This reduces evaporation and prevents sunlight from acting like a magnifying glass and burning your grass. Evening watering means that roots remain wet longer, thus promoting fungus and disease. Maintaining this kind of watering schedule not only saves time and effort, but also it conserves water – thereby saving you money and preserving a valuable resource.

Step 2 – Overseed

You can keep your lawn thick and healthy by regularly adding grass seed in the early spring and late fall. Mix the seed with compost or top-dress with triple mix soil to help improve the soil and add nutrients at the same time. Choose hardy grasses that don’t require a lot of care and are specific for your property, either shady or sunny locations.

Step 3 – Hand pluck weeds

Springtime after the rain is the best time to hand-pull weeds when roots are not well established. Add some grass seed and compost to any bare areas when you’re done.

Step 4 – Mow high and mow less

Ideally, lawns should be cut around 3 inches in height (7.5 cm). Cutting foliage too short reduces the main food factory of the plant, creating a need for fertilizers. Since plants tend to keep foliage mass and root structure in balance, a short lawn also has a short root structure that cannot reach ground water. Finally, short grass can’t shade out weeds, which means relying on herbicides to kill weeds instead.

Invest in a push mover. The blades cut cleanly, which makes grass healthier and more pest resistant. They’re also better for the environment.

Step 5 - Leave grass clippings on your lawn

This simple step alone can cut lawn maintenance time by up to 40 percent, cut your garbage by 35 percent during the peak growing season, return nitrogen and other valuable nutrients to the soil and supply valuable moisture to your lawn.

Step 6 – Aerate

For those who really want to rival the perfectly manicured lawns of the 19th century, aerate your lawn once a year (either spring or fall). This involves using an aerator that cuts narrow plugs in the soil, allowing oxygen and nutrients to penetrate below the surface of your lawn. Aerating also helps restore proper drainage. You can either rent an aerator from your local rental or garden centre, or hire a professional lawn care company.

Step 7 – De-Thatch

Thatch is the dense layer of dead grass and roots that gets compacted on the soil’s surface. It can prevent water from penetrating deep into the soil and can also harbor unwanted bugs. It’s time to de-thatch when that layer gets to be more than 1/2 inch thick.


For a complete list of Ontario’s banned products and ingredients, visit the Ministry of the Environment

The Environmental Factor holds the patent on Canada’s first chemical-free pesticide.


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