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  • Writer's pictureSweet Pea Specialists

Using Chemicals in the Garden

All of our farms are organic and we do not spray. However, many people still do. If you are going to spray, it is important to be informed before hand. Many of the products you can purchase of the shelf are highly dangerous to both yourself and the environment. It is up to you to be informed. Most staff selling these products are not educated or hold a chemical license, which blows my mind. So following are some basic pointers.

Do your own research before leaving the house.

Horticulturists are taught to research the problem before taking any action. This is essential in order to effectively control the problem. You need to correctly identify the disease or pest. Understand its life cycle. For example many people see a slug in their garden and will remove it without blinking an eye. However, you might be causing a problem by doing so. Did you know there are slugs that are carnivorous? Leopard slugs are your best friends in the garden.

Backyard Buddies is an excellent Australian website. It is an education initiative of the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife. FNPW is an environmental charity on a mission to protect Australia’s ecosystems and native species for generations to come.

For researching pests, I recommend using both of these websites. Sustainable Gardening Australia and Fantastic Gardeners. The last website contains lots of information including organic methods to control the pests.

Sustainable Gardening Australia is another excellent website. This link will take you to the page for common plant diseases. It clearly identifies the disease and provides information on how manage it. The site is very informative and explains the life cycle and the preferred conditions for the disease.

To avoid many plant diseases it can be as simple as "right plant, right conditions". So before purchasing plants and seeds, research the plant. I aim to provide as much information as possible on our plants and seeds. Since we grow all of our seeds and plants on our farms, you can contact us if you have any questions.

Meet your new best friend - Limax maximus (Leopard Slug)

Time to Spray?

Prevention and management will always be better than the cure. However, there are times when we do need to control a problem to restore balance in our gardens.

Safety Data Sheet (SDS)

Your research should have advised you on the best product to resolve your issue. You will need to research that product before purchasing. This is done by obtaining the product's Safety Data Sheet (SDS). What is a SDS? An SDS is a document that provides detailed information about a hazardous chemical, including:

  • the identity of the chemical product and its ingredients,

  • the hazards of the chemical including health hazards, physical hazards and environmental hazards,

  • physical properties of the chemical, like boiling point, flash point and incompatibilities with other chemicals,

  • workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants,

  • safe handling and storage procedures for the chemical,

  • what to do in the event of an emergency or spill,

  • first aid information, and

  • transport information.

Click on this link to learn more about Safety Data Sheets.

Click on this link to obtain the Safety Data Sheet for a product.

It is strongly recommended that a Safety Data Sheet for every product you own is printed out and placed with the product.

Storage of Chemicals

Safe storage of chemicals is essential. Even when not in use, hazardous chemicals can still pose a risk. Some can cause or contribute to a fire or explosion, injure or poison people or damage property if they are stored unsafely. Some hazardous chemicals are also not compatible with one another. When incompatible hazardous chemicals mix, they may cause an explosion, release toxic, flammable or corrosive gases, or corrode chemical containers.

Click on this link to learn about storing chemicals.

If possible store chemicals near an area that has access to water. You also need this area to be somewhere the chemicals can be safely washed away eg gravel area that does not have any run off to storm water, garden etc. This is the place where you wash all your equipment that you used to apply the chemical. It is also the place where you wash your hands after using the chemical and in case of an emergency you can hose yourself down. Note this is for home gardeners, places of employment have other requirements.

Keep a basic first aid kit with your chemicals in case of an emergency. This is also the perfect place to store your Safety Data Sheets. Include phone numbers to emergency services including poison information.

Poisons Information Centre (Australia) 131 126

You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from anywhere in Australia.

I also recommend you store your Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) nearby as well. You are more inclined to use it if it is in sight.

Keeping Records

This is only required for places of employment and farms. However, it is still a good idea for the home gardener. You will be able over time to detect patterns and record how effective the treatment has been.

Top 10 Record Keeping Tips - excellent article!

Template for Chemical Spray Record - PDF

When to Spray

Following are the optimum conditions to spray:

  • early in the morning before the birds and insects are active.

  • clear sunny days.

  • when there is no wind.

Remember that use of chemicals is the last strategy used in horticulture. Nature is not about perfection. We can exist with plants that have had nibbles. We can share our produce with other creatures.

It is possible to have a productive garden without our intervention. It will take a few years to achieve this after you stop using products, but it will happen. The only thing I have found to be essential, is enclosed structures to keep birds and animals away from some fruiting trees.

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