Outside Your Home


Why worry about pesticides? Pesticides are not just used on farms, Americans apply millions of pounds of chemicals in their communities each year. Pesticides are used to control cockroaches and other insects in the home, insects on trees and plants, mosquitos, or to maintain a "perfect" lawn or garden. Homeowners use an estimated 85 million pounds of pesticides each year (National Academy of Sciences). Homeowner use of pesticides is particularly hazardous, since we are not usually trained in pesticide application and often use the products inside our homes, potentially exposing at-risk groups, such as children and the elderly.

Healthy lawns do not generally experience major pest problems. Maintaining a healthy lawn through proper watering, mowing and fertilizing will reduce the need to rely on heavy applications of chemicals.

To improve the color and resistance of your lawn, you can apply nitrogen (slow-acting form), potassium and lime 2 to 4 times a year, in early spring and fall. These items are suggested to reduce water requirements. Fertilizing in late spring or summer encourages growth during the dry summer months. Be careful, over-application can result in severe damage to the lawn. Read and follow label directions carefully.

Minimize the need for pesticides by choosing plant species that are resistant to insects and disease. Avoid growing large groups of one type of plant. Provide habitat for birds, toads, etc. that prey on insect pests. Introduce praying mantises, lacewings, ladybugs, and other pest eaters to your garden. Try to find natural alternatives to pesticides, such as insecticidal soap and dormant oil.

If you do use pesticides, read and follow label directions carefully. Protect yourself, wear gloves, long sleeves and a mask. Change your clothes after the application is competed. Use only as much pesticide as you will need. Never transfer pesticide from its original container. Avoid using aerosol sprays, since the cans present a disposal problem.

Avoid wearing soft contact lenses when working with pesticides. They can absorb vapors from the air and hold the chemical near your eyes.

Never use pesticides or fertilizers if rain is forecast, and do not water heavily after use. The excess water can carry these chemicals into the nearest stream or storm drain.

Japanese Beetles - Rather than use chemicals to control Japanese beetles, try using traps. The traps use sex hormones to attract the beetles. Place traps 20-30 feet away form the area you want to protect. Empty the trap regularly, killing the beetles with soapy or salty water. Light infestations can be controlled by hand-picking the beetles off plants, easiest in early morning when they are still sluggish.


Plant deciduous trees near your home. Well-placed deciduous trees can reduce your heating and cooling bills. Deciduous trees keep the house cooler in summer, by blocking the sun, and keep it warmer in the winter, by letting the sun through once its leaves have dropped. Trees provide the additional environmental benefit of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Use drought-tolerant plants and grasses for landscaping. Plants native to the area generally use less water, they are already adapted to the type of soil and amount of rainfall that they will be exposed to in your yard. Non-native plants may require twice as much water as native plants that are just as attractive. Native plants will also help the ecology by attracting native wildlife.

Use low-pressure perforated hoses rather than sprinklers for watering plants. You may want to consider installing a drip-irrigations watering system for valuable plants.

Planting only one type of grass makes the lawn more susceptible to disease. Instead, try a variety of grass, shrub and tree species, especially those that are resistant to infestations and are adapted to local weather and soil conditions.

Reduce the amount of lawn area. Landscaped areas generally use less water than lawns. Use mulch around trees and shrubs to reduce evaporation.

Lawns are usually dormant during the summer and therefore do not need water. If you must water the lawn, do it in the morning or evening, to minimize evaporation. Watering deeper but less often is better than frequent shallow waterings. Approximately one inch of water per week is sufficient under most conditions. Water slowly to avoid runoff.

When you mow, set the blades to cut the grass 2" to 3" high. Most grasses are healthier at this height than when cut very short. This also helps to control weeds. Mow often and leave the clippings on the ground. They will help keep moisture in and will provide nutrients to the soil as they decompose.

It is sometimes desirable to rake up grass clippings (if the yard needs thatching or if the grass is so tall that it would harm the lawn if left in place). In those cases, either add the clippings to the compost pile or use them in your vegetable garden to control weed growth.


Yard waste can make up as much as 20% of the material going into a landfill. Not only does this needlessly use up landfill space; it deprives the soil of a readily available, natural source of nutrients.

Create a compost pile for your tree and grass trimmings. You can use the compost as a natural fertilizer. Composting is easy and can be very inexpensive, no sophisticated equipment is needed. You can add fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen as well-do not include meat and bones (they may attract animals).

Guide to Composting

Motorized Equipment

Don't ignore fuel efficiency when purchasing your power mower or other motorized garden tools, construction or farm equipment, or outboard motors. Look for models that are designed to minimize air emissions and reduce the likelihood of spillage during refueling. Avoid spilling gas and releasing fuels into the air when refueling your motorized equipment.


Don't use your hose as a broom. Using a broom to clean your driveway will not only save water, but will reduce the amount of pollutants and trash washed into storm drains.

Unless instructions state otherwise, seal containers of household cleaners and workshop chemicals tightly. Tight seals will prevent volatile chemicals from being released into the air and will prolong the shelf-life of the product. Don't leave containers open when not in use.

Use water-based products whenever possible.

Avoid wearing soft contact lenses when working with solvents. They can absorb vapors from the air and hold the chemical near your eyes.

Garage/Workshop Hazardous Products - Alternatives


Never dump or wash waste oil or other products into street drains. Most of these drains connect directly to nearby creeks or streams.

Take waste oil to a service station or RECYCLE DELAWARE oil recycling igloo. Be careful not to mix the oil with other wastes, or it cannot be recycled.


Never pour antifreeze down the drain into a septic system. Check with your local service station, many stations accept used antifreeze.

Clean up any leaks or spills of antifreeze thoroughly. Many pets have died after they drink from sweet tasting puddles of antifreeze on driveways and sidewalks.

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