SPRING CLEAN YOUR PESTICIDES

by Niki L. Moquist, UC Master Gardener

Spring is the perfect time to inventory our garden and household chemicals sitting in the garage or garden shed shelves. These half or full containers might have sat around for a while gathering dust. These need to be disposed safely to prevent accidents and protect the environment. 

Let’s define what is a pesticide: A pesticide is any substance used to kill, repel, or control certain forms of plant or animal life that are considered pests. A pest is any unwanted organism that causes problems. Most organisms are not pests or are pests only in certain conditions. Pesticides should be considered tools or steps in a process.

Pesticides include: herbicides for destroying weeds and other unwanted vegetation; insecticides for controlling a wide variety of insects; fungicides used to prevent the growth of molds and mildew; disinfectants for preventing the spread of bacteria; and compounds used to control mice and rats. They can be chemical, or organic such as neem oils. They contain active and inert ingredients, produced to be used in very specific ways. 

Labels on pesticide containers give specific instructions how to use and dispose, look for the “Storage and Disposal” statement on your pesticide label. It is a good idea to learn how to read the pesticide label. Labels are there primarily to help us achieve maximum benefits with minimum risk. Both depend on following label directions and correctly using them. Follow the directions before each use and when storing or disposing the pesticide. Do not trust your memory. You may have forgotten part of the instructions. Use of any pesticide in any way that does not comply with the label direction and precautions is illegal. Improper usage may be ineffective on the pests or, even worse, pose risks to users or the environment. Labels also list if the pesticide is toxic to the bee population. It is a good idea to read the label prior to purchasing a product to make sure is effective on the pest you are trying to control. Keep product in its original container with labels intact.

Dispose of pesticides as instructed on the product label. If product label is illegible and contents cannot be identified, it is best to dispose. Some chemicals do not age well, if they have been sitting on a shelf for a while it is best to dispose. Older chemicals might have been removed from the market and it would be illegal to use them, e.g., diazinon. (The last time use allowed was 2004!). If any product remains in the old container, it must be disposed as household hazardous waste. Never pour pesticides down the sink, toilet, sewer, or street drain. Many municipal drinking water and wastewater treatment systems are not equipped to remove pesticides. If pesticides reach waterways, they can harm fish, plants, and other living things. You cannot dispose pesticide bottles or other containers in household garbage can. You need to take them to an approved Household Hazardous Waste Center. Check your local municipality for hours and sites. Never reuse empty containers.

Once ready to tackle the task, make sure to line the floor with a heavy plastic tarp. Have on hand kitty litter or sand and plenty of paper towels for cleaning spills. Lay out heavy garbage bags to form a barrier for plastic containers. Be sure to wear protective clothing when rinsing pesticide containers, such as chemical resistant gloves and eye protection to avoid contact with skin or eyes. Do not pour rinse water into any drain or on any site not listed on the product label; it could contaminate the environment. If you mixed or diluted a pesticide and you have a little too much left over, try to use it up while following the label.  Consider asking a neighbor if they can use any leftover mixtures. Protect pets and children, make sure they are in the house and safe.

How to transport the old pesticides to the Household Hazardous Waste Center:

  • Keep the pesticides in their original containers with the labels attached
  • Place containers so they won’t shift and/or spill; you might have to fill gaps between containers with old newspapers
  • Line the transport area in your vehicle with a heavy plastic tarp, to contain any spills in case of an accident
  • If pesticides are carried in the back of an open vehicle, secure and cover the load
  • Don’t put pesticides in the passenger compartment of a vehicle

Go straight to collection site once you have loaded the car. Drive carefully

Same rules apply when you purchase pesticides and are delivering them to your house. Place bottles in a plastic tub lined with a heavy garbage bag, to protect your vehicle in case of spills. Keep pesticides away from groceries, including food for animals.

Pesticides should be stored in their original containers. The original container is designed to protect the product and it’s made of materials that will withstand the chemicals in the product. Store containers with their original labeling which includes application and disposal directions, ingredient names and emergency information. The original container also has the appropriate lid/cap to protect kids and pets. Store in a designated place that is only used for pesticide storage, pick a well-ventilated location that children and pets cannot access, preferably with a latch or lock. Choose a location away from ponds, streams and drinking water wells.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to reduce the use of pesticides (see below for website)
  • Identify the pest and make sure the product will be effective against that pest before purchasing
  • Buy only what you need for the season, mix only what you need today, follow label directions for mixing

Helpful Resources:

  • For help with identifying pests and how to control them – Integrated Pest Management Program at University of California  http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/menu.homegarden.html  
  • For help in how to store, dispose, read labels on container, the National Pesticide Information (NIPC) at Oregon State University is a good source.  
  • Disposal Instructions on Non-antimicrobial Residential or Household Use Pesticide Product Labels –US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA
  • Safe Disposal of Pesticides – US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Contact your local Master Gardeners for more information

Happy gardening and stay safe.  

 

 

 

 

 

Propagation Blog #3 Timing Softwood Cuttings

by LaVille Logan

For most plants there is a window of opportunity for success. I always rely on asking Google for help with this as it steers me away from mistakes.  “Google, when is the best time for ________ cuttings? Often the answer is “When the plant is actively growing.” This makes it unnecessary for me to be concerned with the planting zone because the plant will be growing when conditions are good for it. Plant growth stages fall into 4 categories: herbaceous softwood, semi hardwood, and hardwood and are very important in determining whether or not the cutting will root. I will be concerned with softwood cuttings today as much of my experience is with this group. I have started clematis, forsythia, fuchsia, pelargoniums, salvia, ivy, hoya, abutilons and hydrangea this last season. (Be aware that I did not take all of the cuttings at precisely the “correct” time.) Softwood is when the young stems are just getting a little hard—not likely to dry out after they are cut. Older stems become harder and it is more difficult for them to develop roots in that stage. The softwood should snap and break when bent. You can use the same starting procedures with softwood cuttings: 1. Cutting length from 4 to 6 inches, 2. Strip bottom two sets of leaves, creating a scar to ‘work with’ the hormone, 3. Dip into hormone powder, shake off extra, and 4. Place into readymade hole in dampened potting mix. Keep cutting in a humid environment for 2 to 3weeks ( refer to blog about tote containers or use inverted Zip Lock bags. It is better if the bags do not touch the cuttings. There are many plants that will work with these procedures, but the ones listed are the plants to which I had access. Regading not taking cuttings at the ‘correct’ time–remember the windstorm? A branch of our Xylosma tree broke off, I made a 20+ cuttings, (insert unhappy emoji) they all failed, but when I trimmed back my clematis later (not actively growing, and kind of crunchy) I got two of those cuttings to grow!  Yay!

Propagation Blog #2 Container Size and Medium

By LaVille Logan

I think it is essential to have a really good medium for cuttings. The ratio of soil, peat moss, perlite, vermiculite and worm castings is pretty critical to success.  I have learned this though some massive failures. I researched online, and came up with a mix that I could make with what was available to me, using our ability to purchase materials at Redi-gro.  My “recipe”:

Redi Gro potting soil – 3 parts

Perlite – 1 part

Worm castings -1/4 C. per gallon

Vermiculite – ½ part

My reasoning is that Redi Gro is a pretty good mix just as it is, and you will have success using it plain, so it is a good base.  I add perlite to loosen the mix and keep it well draining. I add worm castings as a natural fertilizer which will not burn.  It has microorganisms for healthy soil, and discourages root rot, aphids, mealy bugs and mites. I include vermiculite to increase water and nutrient retention. It is especially nice for water loving plants.  I don’t measure very accurately. I have a plastic ½ gallon container which I use to dip ingredients from their respective bags.

I have been experimenting with straight perlite verses my mix when I do my cuttings, and it has been instructive. For instance, I used to root my abutilon trees in water before I planted them in mix and or perlite. I now know I get a much better rate of success planting them in mix immediately. I plant 4 cuttings close together in the middle of a 4” pot hoping for 2 or 3 to ‘catch’ and provide a nice, bushy plant. Surprise, I get 4 healthy stems about 95% of the time.

Other cuttings I start in an 8oz. clear plastic cup (I have drilled a quarter in hole in the bottom, I can drill several at a time without them flying all over) I use clear cups so I can see the rate of rooting and know when it is ready without having to knock it out of the pot. Label the plant with name and date it was done. When repotting to the next size up, either a 4” pot or a 16” plastic cup, I use a dusting of Sure Start before placing cutting in larger container. This may be the last size I use for sale, but for large plants–trees, hydrangea, fast growing marguerites—I repot again to a gallon pot. Each time, I cross out the previous date of potting on the label, write the new date, and keep it with the plant.

When I repot something planted initially in straight perlite, I gently rinse the perlite off the roots, back into my barrel of mix, then plant the cutting (still holding on to some perlite with its roots) into a larger container, don’t forget the Sure Start. Water to settle the mix and do not press down. Perlite is a good rooting medium for many plants, but contains no nutrients, hence the need to watch roots and repot in a timely manner.

Propagation Blog #1 – TOTES

By LaVille Logan

I think it is important to do a job with the best tools.  One of my best tools is a clear plastic tote. The ones I use will hold 12 4”pots.  When I make cuttings, they do better if they are in high humidity for a period of time. I place the cuttings in small cups (Blog #2 Containers and Medium) using a variety of mediums, and I arrange the already watered plants closely in said tote.  The clear plastic of the sides and top allow bright indirect light to reach plants. The next day, and every day, I check to see if moisture had accumulated on the inside surface of the tote. If so, great. If not, I didn’t get the cuttings moist enough. They should be WET when placed in tote. You will not have to water them again for at least 2 weeks, perhaps a month if the lid is snapped on tightly. If the droplets of water that gather are large enough to “wander around” on the inside of the lid, perhaps there is too much humidity, and you can set the lid a little crooked on the tote to allow a little evaporation. House plants generally can use more humidity than outdoor plants. I check my totes daily, feeling the air inside to make sure it is not too hot. Any direct sun on a tote may create a solar oven, so be careful. The very low winter sun provides just the right amount of light and heat to keep cuttings safe from low temperatures.  However, when we had a streak of very low night temps (anything below 40 for several days) I brought them all inside.  I have learned a few plants don’t like humidity and will turn black and fuzzy after the initial root development (about three to four weeks) while others may be fine with it.  Just keep an eye on them daily and move plants that are not thriving to a protected place out of the closed tote. If you do not want to “dive in” and purchase large totes, you can create a humid environment around a pot containing cuttings by covering it with a large Ziploc plastic bag.