Neighbours talking over the garden gate has long been a tradition. They share gardening tips, complain about the weather and pests yet are ever eager to discuss their gardens. That is what I had in mind when creating this blog. So stop by my garden gate to find out the latest happenings in my garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
"All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child." ~ Madame Marie Curie"

Friday, May 09, 2008

Ontario Lawn Pesticide Ban

Female Mallard
(Anas platyrhynchos)

This adult female Mallard has been frequenting our backyard likely in search of a suitable nesting site. While she seems be enjoying her stroll through the lawn and I love her visits, I cannot say the same thing about grass. Sorry folks but I am a grass hater in the form of a pristine, green, outdoor growing, carpet. I can say that even though we laid sod last year as a quick fix before hosting a large outdoor event. Don't get me wrong, grass does have some uses like preventing ground errosion and ground cover but for the most part, the way grass is used is not environmentally friendly.

We are so used to seeing perfectly manicured, chemically dependent, expanses of green lawn. A considerable amount of money is spent to keep them looking that way using fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, copious amounts of water without even considering the environmental impact of maintaining lawns. People pay a huge amount of money to kill dandelions in their yards yet will pay to buy dandelions for their salads. Does anyone see the irony in this? People are complaining about the rising cost of food yet instead of vegetable gardens they have a well manicured yard. Does anyone recall victory gardens? During WWII the government encouraged urban citizens to plant backyard gardens to provide their own fruits, herbs and vegetables, something rural folk had been doing all along. Preserving the bounty from the garden was a high priority as well. A small patch of yard can provide a surprisingly large amount of food instead of grass, something many have already realized.

Quebec introduced it's Pesticide Management Code in 2003 with the final phase effective in 2006. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced his pesticide ban for the sale and cosmetic use of pesticides on Earth Day to go into effect 2009. More than 300 pesticides, herbicides and fungicides will be banned under this legislation including products like Round Up, Killex and Weed 'n' Feed affecting lawns and gardens. Farming and forestry operations will be exempt from the ban as will pesticide used for healthy and safety concerns. This announcement has sent some residents into a stock-piling mode for these pesticides as stores have already started pulling pesticides from their shelves. However, since the ban includes the use of for cosmetic reasons some of these folk will likely get themselves into a bit of hot water. The City of Toronto has begun fining up to $5,000 to people using pesticides and guess what, neighbours or anyone can easily file a complaint that someone has used a pesticide. I doubt the manufacturers are very happy about this new ban. What this ban will do is if force property owners to use organic methods for weed control. However, folks against the ban say that this will force property owners to do more mowing as a means of control, something that will increase CO2 emissions. Compounding the problem is many municipalities have noxious weed control bylaws in place so it is up to the property owner to remove the noxious weeds on their property or the municipality will enter the property and remove them at a cost to the property owner along with in some cases a fine. What really needed is a paradyme shift of public attitude to see that instead of grass there are other low maintenance, environmentally friendly ground covers and at least part of any property with a lawn should be used to grow fruits and vegetables.

Personally, I agree with the pesticide ban but I don't think McGuinty went far enough. I think he should have banned grass used for cosmetic reasons aka lawns. There are so many other maintainence free ground covers that could be used in place of perfectly manicured lawns. The problem is when some people have replaced their lawns with wildflowers or other suitable ground cover, municipalities have waved their little fingers under the property owner's nose, slapped them with a fine and told them to rip out the ground cover and replace it with grass. Heaven help the environmentally friend homeowner who has to deal with a home owner's association! McGuinty should encourage the citizens of Ontario to use low maintenance ground cover that does not need mowing. Just think of how much we could reduce our carbon emissions just by not mowing grass. He should encourage and even provide an incentive for every citizen in the province to grow a modern day version of victory gardens!

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome


  1. Anonymous9:35 PM

    Like many people out there, we all know this is a way to buy votes out of the large population of “green” people. Well here are some things to think about. 56 square meters of turfgrass produces enough oxygen for a person everyday, therefore the average lawn of 450 square meters produces enough oxygen for a family of 8 per day. So with the ban of pesticides (umbrella term) for insecticides – the control of insects, herbicides – the control of weeds and fungicides – control of diseases we can risk losing all of our turf to insects like BTA, Chinch bugs, European Chafer. Or to devastating diseases like pythium that spreads so fast and will destroy you lawn in days. And weeds, well that should be self explanatory they will take over and kill the grass themselves. And because herbicides is the most common used pesticide I’ll elaborate. People say well get down and pick the weeds, well that can only go so far, what seems to be everybody’s favorite weed the “dandelion” can grow a root system up to 2.5 meters, now that’s got to be tough to pull out of the ground. Than they say let them grow, well these things can grow up to 75 cm tall, that will look great when you try to sell your home and your property value has gone down drastically. Also the “dandelion” competes with the turf for moisture and key nutrients in the soil, as well as alternate hosts for other diseases and viruses. So than you get the people that say cut the grass higher so the grass will prevent the growth of weeds, well “green” people, now you have to cut your lawn 3-4 times a week to maintain this height, so good pump more emissions into our atmosphere or use up more energy than needed. And then there is the Giant Hogweed, what is that? Well it’s what you call a phototoxic plant it’s sap causes phytophotodermatitis. And if you are aware of this plant it can spread very quickly and is not to be cut down or mowed over, it must be sprayed with an herbicide! Or it will spread and can grow up to 5 meters high, imagine those all over the place. Let your kid come home with devastating burns and scares for life. So after all of this we now have no more home lawns to take in our carbon dioxide outtake and give us our much needed oxygen intake. Oh well we still have trees, well without the use of pesticides you get the Gypsy Moth, even worse the Emerald Ash Borer which is already at work and the really bad Asian Long-Horned Beetle which can wipe out trees like poplar’s, willow’s, elm’s and sugar maple’s, sound familiar? Whether we like it or not, the change in climates are bringing all new pests to our part of the world and with no way to control them what will we do? Now any intelligent person would know that this is a silly political stunt to get voters, and to play political games just to stay in parliament by having thousands of people lose there jobs over such a ridiculous law and get votes from environmentalists, if you want to deny it than I would suggest banning the agricultural sector from the use of pesticides because they are the largest users in our society. As well, golf courses are NOT exempted from this pesticide ban, so please get your facts straight. They have an exception with very strict regulations. Why is this? Because golf courses use trained professionals that go through a long process of Integrated Pest Management Accreditation. What is this? IPM is basically pest population management. Use as little pesticides as possible to prevent pests from reaching damaging levels. And it is no secret; the regulations are posted on the Internet. So basically what I’m trying to get across is that yes a provincial wide pesticide ban is a good thing, but you have to keep it in professional’s hands and take the stuff off the shelves at the hardware store. That’s when it gets dangerous.

  2. This is not nor was it a ploy to by the votes of "green" people as you call them. Yes grass produces oxygen but at the same time because lovely green outdoor carpets are so popular they are considerably more damaging to the environment than the oxygen they produce. Look at the carbon dioxide produced simply by cutting these pristine but chemically dependent lawns. Look at how much fresh water they use just to keep that nice green colour. There is absolutely no reason why lawns cannot be replaced with low growing, almost maintenance free ground cover that requires no mowing or copious amounts of chemicals. Better yet in these hard economic times those green lawns should be replaced with edible plants that not only provide food but also produce oxygen. Those dandelions you see as weeds are edible, by the way.

    I do have my facts straight. Golf course are exempt not only to maintain the playing surface but to also use insecticides to keep mosquitoes and other stinging (eg. bees) under control. Hmm, we already have a problem with lower population levels of pollinators so golf courses actually have the go ahead to spray since bees sting. To say that pesticides should only be used in the hands of a professional and not allow homeowners to use pesticides comes very much across that you are a professional yourself. That obviously would be to your benefit but not the homeowners who cannot $200 or more to have their homes or yards treated.

    IMO, green lawns should be banned and replacing them with edible landscaping should be encouraged. Even native wildflowers would be a better choice than lawns. Current several communities in Ontario agree with my position on this by encouraging homeowners to replace boulevards with low growing, maintenance free ground cover. Other communities are encouraging replacing at least front lawns with environmentally friendly choices.

  3. Anonymous11:39 PM

    If you want to ban grass, you should also add houses, buildings, roads, farms and crops, and anything non-native in general to the list. I agree, pesticides are not necessary and harmful to the environment when used in this type of circumstance (i.e. lawns), however there are far worse alternatives than planting grass in front of the typical house.

  4. Anonymous9:49 PM

    I just came in from cutting my lawn and can't believe the number of weeds that have taken hold. We did sod 3 years ago and now the lawn looks terrible.

    A sarcastic thank you to our over active Ontario politicians who are controlling nearly every aspect of my life. Leave me alone!

  5. Hi to the latest anonymous to comment. See now and I am being sarcastic you really don't know anything about lawns do you? Have you tried using natural weed control? I doubt it. Have you checked to see what weeds you have are edible? I doubt it. You do know people are starving so would really appreciate some of your weeds even though you don't want them. I don't suppose you even once checked into the negative health effects of all those pesticides have you? I'm guessing you are looking at your own little patch of green without seeing the bigger picture. How much research on the issue have you done? How much do actually know about the real issue of pesticides. Instead of getting informed it is easier for you to lash out and leave an anonymous comment on a blog.

    IMO the Ontario pesticide needs to go further. This is one time that I will give full kudos to the Ontario government and I actually hope they do take it further whether or not you like it.


Thanks so much for commenting. Your message will appear once approved.