Using chemicals on your garden and allotment to deal with pests

An allotment next to a home

There are loads of chemicals like herbicides, lawn feed and slug pellets that you can buy ‘off-the-shelf’ for use in your garden or allotment.

It’s really important that these garden chemicals are stored correctly and used responsibly, not only for your safety as a user, but also to minimise risk to other people, pets and wildlife. But did you know their use can also pose a risk to drinking water sources.

Excess chemicals and those applied near to watercourses or before rainfall can be washed into rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

What are the risks?

  • Chemicals which aren’t stored securely in a cool, dry place and out of direct sunlight can be at risk of leaking. Children, pets and wildlife can easily come in contact with it.
  • Leaking chemicals may come into contact with other substances and may react with them.
  • If you apply them at a higher concentration than recommended, it will leave excess chemical in the environment.
  • Chemicals in the environment may poison wildlife, either directly or indirectly if it’s prey is poisoned.
  • Excess chemicals and those applied near to watercourses or before rainfall can be washed into rivers, lakes and reservoirs.
  • Chemicals in drinking water sources can be very costly or, in some cases, impossible to treat. 

Here’s how you can help

  • Make sure chemicals are stored securely in their original containers in a cool, dry place out of reach of children and pets.
  • Store out of direct sunlight to reduce the risk of liquids vapourising and labels bleaching.
  • Only buy enough chemical for the intended treatment.
  • Don’t make-up more solution for application than required.
  • Rinse empty containers three times with water and add to the final application of solution.
  • Put rinsed containers in the appropriate household bin.

A specific risk to drinking water quality can be caused by the use of slug pellets containing the active ingredient metaldehyde. To find out more please see the leaflet below.

Natural control

Many of the plants and creatures we consider to be pests in the garden provide a tasty meal to something else and this can work to the gardener’s advantage!

Making your garden or allotment wildlife friendly encourages these natural predators and can be achieved by incorporating wild areas into your planting scheme and limiting chemical use.
This encourages the birds, frogs and hedgehogs that feast on slugs and snails, the birds of prey that control rodent numbers and the ladybird and lacewing larvae that patrol the greenhouse on the lookout for tasty aphids!

Some natural controls are also available to purchase and include nematode parasites and predatory insect larvae.

Implementing a mixture of approaches including rotating plants, using biological controls, choosing resistant plant varieties, encouraging natural predators and limited use of chemicals if necessary, can be most effective. You can find more information on the RHS website.


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