DEEP: Environmental Alternatives for the Garden

Household Alternatives - In The Lawn and Garden

{Lawn and garden images}

More people are becoming concerned about the effects of lawn and garden chemicals on children, pets and the environment. Many have begun using natural products on their lawns and in their gardens and are avoiding using pesticides.

Garden or Lawn Issue  Non-Toxic Alternatives or Solutions
Monoculture
Planting
(e.g., lawns)
Companion planting is a cultural method to deter pests.  Including certain plants throughout and around the garden can repel a variety of insects. These plants include nasturtium, tansy, euphoria, rue, dahlias, marigolds, aster, cosmos, coreopsis, garlic, chive, savory, rosemary, petunias, and thyme. It is also helpful to mix plants. When a garden is set aside for one type of plant, it becomes a definite target for its particular pest.
Fungal problems Aerate the soil; keep areas clean and dry; do not over water.
Insects on Plants (general) Identify insects and select appropriate control - the less toxic methods include hand or water spray removal, soapy water spray, barrier and traps. Many insects, and some animals, despise the smell and taste of cayenne pepper. Combine 1 tablespoon peppermint castile soap and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper in a 1/2 gallon of water and spray on all areas of infestation.
Aphids Use natural predators (ladybugs, ground beetles, praying mantis). Garlic, chives, petunias, and nasturtiums repel aphids.
Squashbugs, Snails, and Wireworms Boards placed around the garden perimeter will attract them and they will attach to the bottom of the boards. Wireworms and snails are also attracted to potatoes and will attach to the insides of hollowed out potato halves (scoop out the inside to form an igloo).
Slugs and Snails Remove tall grass and debris from the vicinity of the garden. Use a shallow dish of beer to trap or hand capture in the evening.
Cabbage Worms Use tansy, rosemary, and tomato to help repel them.
Physical Deterrents Tarpaper stapled to form a cylinder and placed around the base of an affected plant will deter many pests. Wood ashes can deter borers that attach to trees - add enough water to form a paste and apply to the bottom of the tree.
Ants Use chili powder or tansy to deter ants; drench the mounds with boiling water.
Weeds
Hand pull or spot spray with natural lawn care products. Anchor sections of black plastic to kill off larger weed patches and leave in place for 7-10 days. Use landscaping fabric with a mulch covering to prevent new weeds from germinating. Corn gluten meal, a non-chemical control for crabgrass, can be applied in September and again in the early spring.
 
Lawn Care
The best way to keep a lawn weed-free is to keep it healthy. This requires selecting the right grass, having your soil tested to determine the pH and nutrient needs, mowing to the right height, watering wisely, and scouting for pests monthly.
 
 
Related Info:
Soil Testing Both UCONN (877-486-6271 toll free) and the CT Agricultural Experiment Station (877-855-2237 toll free; in the New Haven area 203-974-8521) offer soil-testing services.
Hiring Professionals

If you want to hire a professional lawn service company, interview them to determine if they offer IPM services or organic lawn care. Make sure the company holds a valid state license to apply commercial pesticides (even if it is using IPM) and that the staff is trained and certified. The company should fully explain their strategy and which materials they plan to use on your lawn. The Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) has a list of land care professionals accredited in organic lawn care.

If you have questions on pesticides and licensing of applicators, call the DEEP Pesticides Division at 860-424-3369.

Additional Resources

 
Disclaimer: The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEEP) maintains the content on this web page to enhance public access to information and facilitate understanding of environmental issues. The DEEP is not recommending these resources over any others and recognizes these represent only a partial listing of resources on this subject.
 
Content Last Updated April 2014