Pesticide Use

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How will Georgina's Pesticide By-law affect me?

The Pesticide By-Law is the Town of Georgina’s response to growing public concern about pesticide use. Georgina is joining more than 125 other cities and municipalities across Canada in enacting a By-Law against pesticides.

The By-Law is currently in effect (March 1, 2008). The By-Law restricts the outdoor use of pesticides on public and private property in Georgina and applies to anyone who uses pesticides outdoors, including homeowners, renters, lawn care companies and property managers.

Why Does Georgina Need a Pesticide By-Law?

The use of pesticides on lawns and gardens in Georgina presents risk to the health and safety of our families and our environment. Scientists have identified links between exposure to pesticides and health problems, including harm to reproductive and nervous systems. Children, pets and some adults are particularly sensitive to the effects of pesticides. Pesticides also wash off lawns and gardens and run into Lake Simcoe.

What are the Restrictions of the By-Law?

The By-Law will restrict the use of outdoor pesticides on public and private property in Georgina. Effective March 1, 2008, the regulations will apply to anyone who uses pesticides outdoors, including homeowners, renters, lawn care companies and property managers.

What is a Pesticide?

Pesticides are chemical products used to kill, control, or prevent the development of insects, plants, and plant disease. Common products including Killex, Weed n' Feed and Round-up are all considered pesticides. The By-Law does allow the use of certain lower risk products on lawns and gardens.

Are there Situations where Pesticides will be permitted?

Exemptions exist, permitting the use of pesticides for public safety, health, infestations and agriculture. A variety of available natural products are permitted under the By-law.

What if I can’t control a serious pest problem?

The By-Law permits the use of pesticides to control or destroy pests that have caused an infestation. The Town does not consider weeds and common fungal diseases in lawns an infestation.

What is an Infestation?

An infestation is defined in the By-Law, based on that defined by the Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs as "the presence of pests in numbers or under conditions which involve an immediate or potential risk of substantial loss or damage." Numerical Standards can be obtained through the Town of Georgina and are indicated within this guide for certain pests. A permit must be obtained from the Town of Georgina in order to apply pesticides.

What about Weeds?

Weeds are not considered in the standards defining an infestation. Hand weeding, proper watering, mowing, applying compost and fertilizer and sowing grass seed should make your lawn thick and deep-rooted, which will reduce dandelions and other weeds.

Can I still use my lawn care company?

Yes, but your lawn care company must abide by the pesticide By-Law. Talk to your lawn care or landscaping company BEFORE you begin or renew your contract. Some of the questions you might ask the company are whether they are aware of the pesticide by-law and whether the lawn care services they provide comply with the By-Law.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Section

1. I think I have grubs - what should I do now?

There is a good chance that you are asking the question because you’ve seen brown patches of dead looking grass on your lawn, or animals have been digging up chunks of your grass for a night time meal. First, determine if grubs are the cause. Grass damaged by root feeding insects will pull back easily. To check for grubs, cut three sides of a square of grass roughly 0.3 metres (12 inches) with a sharp knife and pull the grass back.

It is possible to inspect for grubs before you see damage. You can check your lawn for the presence of grubs in the early part of August. The grubs, if you have them, will be big enough to see, but too small to have done any damage.

Cultural practices alone are often sufficient to handle grub problems. However, if grub damage persists, nematodes can be applied (according to directions), followed by topdressing and reseeding. Secondary damage caused by animals digging in the lawn can be repaired by raking away any dead material, tamping down the grass, topdressing and reseeding

2. What kind of grass should I use?

A high quality blend of grass species is always recommended - usually a combination of fine fescues, perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass. Look for blends with no less than three, and perhaps as many as five different grass species, including species with natural resistance to insects and drought. Avoid mixes with more than 20% Kentucky Blue Grass. Check the package information to ensure you are purchasing the right mix of grass types.

3. Which is better for renovating a new section of lawn - seed or sod?

Re-sodding is a good choice if you need thick green coverage fast. But, sod raises at least two issues for the natural lawn. The first is that most sod is 100% Kentucky bluegrass. This means it is not suitable for areas receiving less than four hours of sunlight every day. If you do place sod in shade, make sure it is adequately fertilized and watered and over seed the area every fall. Second, just about any sod you purchase will have been treated with herbicides. Watch it carefully for weed infiltration and other signs of poor soil.

4. I have lots of weeds, what should I do?

Weeds that have been established in a lawn for a long time will be slowly crowded out with hand weeding, Over seeding, aerating and topdressing. Typically lawns that have been neglected respond well to a good horticultural program. Proper cutting, watering and fertilizing are the best weed control approaches. If weeds appear in the second or third year of a natural program, extra steps may be required. Focus on the weeds that strongly disrupt the look of the lawn such as dandelions, plantain and black medic.

Hand weeding and preventing the weeds from going to seed can help limit them while horticultural practices will rejuvenate the soil. If weeds are spreading from your garden bed onto your lawn, spread mulch under the garden plants to suppress weed seed germination.

5. When is the best time to fertilize?

In most Canadian cities the best time to fertilize is fall, from late September to mid-November. If a spring feeding is desired this should be after the natural growth of the lawn slows, usually during the month of May. Mulched grass clippings add about 30% of nitrogen requirements and therefore can reduce fertilizing needs.

6. What do I do with dying patches of grass?

Patches of dying grass can arise from problems for the whole lawn (such as grubs or disease) or from a more isolated problem (such as dog urine or salt damage). The solution for most of the isolated problems is to rake up the damaged grass, top dress and re-seed the area. Most lawn disease (fungus) problems are caused by and will be resolved with changes in the weather. The treatment for lawn grubs is described above. If the problem does not respond to horticultural practices, consult a professional for a diagnosis.

7. If the lawn is seriously infested, wouldn’t it be easier to just spray a pesticide?

This is only a short-term solution and seriously undermines your natural program. While this may appear to be an appealing solution for a very weedy or insect infected lawn or garden, it does not address the conditions in your lawn or garden that attracted pests in the first place. If you are committed to a natural lawn care program, it is much better to deal with any challenges following the recommended cultural practices. If grubs have destroyed a lawn, then it is a perfect time to add soil and reseed with a good blend - including insect-resistant species of grass. If the weeds have taken over, consider killing off the weeds in the worst areas under a thick layer of mulch for the summer and reseed in the fall. In cases where the lawn is more than 40% weeds, cultural practices may take too long to bring weed populations to a more acceptable level. In these cases it may better to completely rejuvenate the lawn by removing the top layers of soil and plant material and replace with healthy, new topsoil and seed.

8. What do I do about mushrooms?

Mushrooms are the reproductive (fruiting) structures of some kinds of fungi. Most fungi in lawns are beneficial because they decompose organic matter, releasing nutrients for plant growth. Mushroom-producing fungi are not necessarily disease producing and are more of a lawn nuisance.

Removing them will limit the spread of spores. Mushrooms can be associated with fairy ring and buried organic material as well as with poor drainage of over watering. Thatch removal and aeration may reduce this kind of fungal growth in a lawn.

9. How can I take care of my roses?

When planting roses, select resistant varieties, leave lots of space between plants and give them plenty of compost. Roses need to be pruned back in the spring. If black spot appears, remove any infected leaves. If necessary, you may treat your roses with products containing sulphur. If aphids are the problem and they persist after they have been blasted with water from the garden hose, you may want to try a lower risk pest control product containing an insecticidal soap, pyrethrins or diatomaceous earth. Always follow label instructions.

10. How can I keep my annuals looking good without a dose of 20-20-20 synthetic fertilizer?

Try one of several available types of fish emulsion fertilizers and start the annuals out each year in a bed of fresh compost. You can diversify your annual garden by including colourful perennials. This will contribute to soil health as well.

11. The large trees on the property don’t look healthy. What should I do?

It is first worthwhile to determine if the problem is a serious threat to the tree or mostly a cosmetic problem. If you are concerned about the health of a tree, call in a certified arborist for an exact diagnosis.