Safely Controlling Pests

Because you live so close to the water, it is especially important for Shore Stewards to practice safe pest control. Most pesticides and herbicides contain synthetic chemicals that could have harmful effects on non-target plants and animals, including pets, humans and beneficial insects. Even some of the ‘safer’ alternatives can be harmful to the environment. You can eliminate or reduce the use of dangerous chemicals and still control unwanted plants or pests by using the following methods.

Limit Your Pesticide Use

Incorporate Northwest native plants into your landscape. These plants seldom need pesticides or fertilizer and many require little or no extra watering once established.

  • Encourage habitat for beneficials. Native plants create a welcoming environment to beneficial insects and animals. Some of these insects provide safe pest control and are not bothersome to humans.
  • Provide healthy soil for a healthy garden. According to WSU, healthy plants that are attacked by pests produce chemicals that attract beneficial insects. Keep your non-native plants healthy by giving them compost and mulch. Compost will boost soil health and increase microorganism populations creating a vibrant soil ecosystem resulting in healthy plants in your garden.
  • Try to tolerate some pests. Insecticides can often harm the soil microorganisms needed for healthy soils and the beneficial insects that are predators to garden pests. For almost every pest there is another organism that preys on it. By using some “broad spectrum” pesticides you may be killing the natural predators of the pest. Keep in mind that healthy plants can survive some pest damage.
  • Use safe and effective alternatives. Horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps and the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are sometimes referred to as “soft pesticides.” They do less damage to beneficial insects and are effective when used properly.
  • Always follow instructions. When using any pesticide product, follow the directions carefully and use only when they are appropriate.
  • Safely dispose of pesticides. All pesticides are considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of at a hazardous waste site. In Washington it is illegal to dump them in the trash or down the drain. For more information on hazardous waste disposal, contact your local solid waste department. In many counties, it is free to dispose of household hazardous waste.
  • Use the WSU Hortsense website. For comprehensive recommendations from experts at Washington State University go to: