TheSpec – City gardeners go au naturel [but just a bit of banned pesticides would help]

THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR

Rose Ciardullo spends about an hour a day making sure her expansive south Mountain lawn looks great.

She weeds, waters and grooms but, even with the help of a landscaping company, Ciardullo is often forced get on her hands and knees to manually remove weeds and insects from her beautiful residential garden.

All of that hard work has her thinking that just a little bit of Class 8 pesticide — now banned in Ontario — should still be legal for minor spot treatments.

“We’ve maintained our lawn naturally, but we have noticed some weeds,” said Ciardullo. “I don’t think there’s too much harm in homeowners” using pesticides.

It’s been a little more than a year since Class 8 pesticides were banned in Ontario, and Hamiltonians are still learning to cope in different ways.

Forbidden items include everything from common weed killers to garden-variety bug spray — those with chemicals such as malathion, carbaryl, glyphosate, rotenone and 2,4-D.

Class 11 or “lower risk pesticides” are the only legal way for homeowners to deal with nuisances such as dandelions, crabgrass, ants and grubs. Substances such as citric acid, acetic acid, capsaicin, sulphur and sodium chloride all land on the list.

“I think golf courses use too much (pesticide), and isn’t it funny how they’re still allowed to use them?” said Ciardullo.

Golf courses in Hamilton are exempt from the pesticide ban because they’re considered “special turf,” said Sue Gilpen, a superintendent of parks with the city.

All other municipal parks and sports fields must adhere to the ban, like it or not.

“(The pesticide ban) has affected the maintenance of parks,” said Tennessee Propedo, superintendent of environmental services with the city. “Using natural methods is a little more expensive than the spraying we were allowed to do, prior to the ban.”

Propedo said the city is now using more “labour intensive” methods of maintaining parks, including overseeding and aerating parks to promote thick, green grass and deter weed growth.

Belinda Gallagher, head of horticulture at Royal Botanical Gardens, said she fully understands public frustration over the pesticide ban.

“We had such a mild winter … it’s been a perfect year for weeds,” said Gallagher. She also noted that some homeowners aren’t thrilled about manually removing and killing insects in their garden.

For Gordon Westoby, a retired homeowner in Dundas, all-natural lawn maintenance has been his method of choice for over 20 years.

“We’ve never used pesticides,” said Westoby, who maintains several large flower gardens along with his wife, Carolyn.

“We just go around the yard and pick the weeds, and we’ve never used fertilizer or pesticides on the garden.”

Westoby prefers natural fertilizers such as horse manure to augment his gardens, and only waters and weeds his property as needed.

Commercially, some companies in Hamilton are now using environmentally friendly treatments for lawns and gardens.

At Turf King, microscopic worms known as nematodes are deployed to combat domestic grub infestations, while organic corn gluten is used to kill crabgrass seedlings.

Across the border, it’s unknown if Ontario residents are purchasing lawn and garden chemicals to bring into their home province.

Several home and garden centres in Cheektowaga, Seneca and Lancaster, N.Y., said they weren’t sure if Ontarians were heading stateside to buy pesticides, but they weren’t ruling it out, either.

“We do ask questions about what customers are using (pesticides) for, but not where they’re going,” said John Cartonia, manager at Perry’s Nursery in West Seneca, N.Y.

Cartonia said most Canadians would likely keep their nationality “hush-hush” if they’re crossing the border to purchase garden chemicals.

Quebec has a similar pesticide ban in place, while Manitoba MP Pat Martin has been pushing for a national ban of cosmetic pesticides since 2006.

Prior to publication, the Canada Border Services Agency wasn’t able to clarify the number of people bringing pesticides into Ontario from the United States, or the legality of bringing pesticides over the Ontario border.

Under the current Ontario Pesticides Act, first-time offenders can face a fine of up to $20,000 for illegal use of pesticides. Banned chemicals that remain in homeowners’ garages and sheds should be immediately taken to hazardous or special waste collection sites.

Roundup weed killer is currently the only Class 8 pesticide exempt from the ban in Hamilton.

However, the herbicide can only be used to combat giant hogweed and poison ivy, which Gilpen identified as “threats to public health.”

Certain products that control wasps, mosquitoes, fleas, termites and other indoor pests are still available for purchase.

abaulcomb@thespec.com

905-526-3299

TheSpec – City gardeners go au naturel.