Landscaping, Gardening & Pest Control

Safe Environment Practices and Procedures

  • Gardeners
  • Homeowners
  • Landscapers


Landscaping and garden maintenance activities can be major contributors to ocean pollution. Soils, yard wastes, over-watering and garden chemicals become part of the urban runoff mix that winds its way through streets, gutters and storm drains before entering the ocean. Poorly functioning sprinklers and over-watering, for example, will increase the amount of pollutants flowing into storm drains. Fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are chemicals that not only kill garden invaders, they also harm useful insects, poison fish and contaminate ground and ocean water when they are washed off lawns and landscaped areas. Leaves, grass clippings and tree trimmings that are swept or blown into the street and gutter are also ocean polluters. These wastes clog catch basins, increasing the risk of flooding on streets and carry garden chemicals into the ocean. As they decompose, they also absorb the oxygen fish need to survive.


Best Management Practices (BMPs) such as handling, storing, and disposing of materials properly can prevent pollutants from entering the storm drains.

  • Protect stockpiles and materials from wind and rain by storing them under tarps or secured plastic sheeting.
  • Schedule grading and excavation projects for dry weather.
  • Use temporary check dams or ditches to divert runoff away from storm drains.
  • Prevent erosion by planting fast-growing annual and perennial grasses. These will shield and bind the soil.

Garden & Lawn Maintenance

  • Do not over-water. Conserve water by using irrigation practices such as drip irrigation, soaker hoses or micro-spray systems.
  • Recycle tree clippings and pruning waste.
  • Do not blow or rake leaves into the street, gutter or storm drains.
  • Use organic or non-toxic fertilizers.
  • Do not over-fertilize and do not fertilize near ditches, streams or other water bodies.
  • Store pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals in a covered area to prevent runoff.

Pesticide Alternatives

The "chemicals-only" approach to pest control is only a temporary fix. A more common approach is needed for a long-term solution. It's called: Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Plan your "IPM" strategy in this order:

  • Physical Controls
    • Barriers
    • Caulking Holes
    • Hand Picking
    • Traps
  • Biological Controls
    • Bacterial insecticides (e.g. bacillus thuringiensis kills Caterpillars)
    • Predatory insects (e.g. Green lacewings eat aphids)
  • Chemical Controls, Your Last Resort - Use these least-toxic products
    • Boric acid powder
    • Dehydrating dusts (e.g. silica gel)
    • Horticultural oils
    • Insecticidal soaps
    • Pyrethrum-based insecticides

Safe Substitutes for Pest Control

  • Ants - Place boric acid dust or hydramethylnon baits in problem areas, cracks and insect walkways. Be sure it is inaccessible to children and pets (it is a mild poison).
  • Caterpillars - When caterpillars are eating, apply products containing Bacillus thuringiensis to leaves.
  • Garden Aphids and Mites - Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid soap and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Add 1 teaspoon of this mixture to a cup of water and spray. (Oil may harm vegetable plants in the cabbage family.)
  • Roaches - Apply boric acid dust to cracks and entry points (see ants above). Place bay leaves on pantry shelves.

If You Must Use Pesticides

Use a pesticide that is specifically designed to control your pest. The insect should be listed on the label. Approximately 90% of the insects on your lawn and garden are not harmful.

Read labels! Use only as directed. In their zeal to control the problem, many gardeners use pesticides at over 20 times the rate farmers do.

Pesticide Disposal

  • Commercial gardeners and landscapers can call 1-888-Clean LA (888-253-2652) to learn where they can properly dispose of gardening chemicals.
  • House toxics - such as pesticides, cleansers and motor oil - can pollute the ocean and poison groundwater if disposed of in storm drains or gutters or if they end up in landfills.
  • Residents can dispose of unused household toxics for free at a Household Hazardous Waste Roundup instead of dumping them into the sink, street, gutter or storm drain. For a list of upcoming roundups, call 1-888-CleanLA.
  • Rinse empty pesticide containers and use rinse water as you would the product. Dispose of empty rinsed containers in the trash.

Attend a Smart Gardening Workshop

LA County hosts Smart Gardening workshops in various cities. For a list of Smart Gardening.