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Make a resolution to sort out old garden chemicals

Be sure to dispose of any garden products that have expired; check the dates on the labels. (Photo: Shutterstock, courtesy Earth911.)

Pesticides expire, can be a fire danger; dispose of them safely

Out with the old, in with the new. On this windy New Year's Eve, it's a good time to take stock of garden chemicals.

Most gardeners tend to pile up an assortment of garden products (conventional or organic). A little is used for a specific issue and the rest set aside.

Over time, the garden shed or garage becomes a toxic storage site. It can be potentially dangerous. Pesticides are poisons; they kill pests. They can be deadly to people and pets, too.

They also can create a fire danger. According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, pesticides and fertilizers should not be stored together. "If you have to store pesticides in the same place as fertilizers, keep them apart," recommends the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. " Pesticides and fertilizers can react with each other and start a fire."

Pesticides expire. Most come with an expiration date on the label, usually two years after manufacture. Clear out expired products.

Don't use expired pesticides, says the state EPA. While sitting on the shelf, some mixtures undergo chemical changes that makes them highly unstable and unsafe. If applied, they can harm plants as well as cause potential reactions to the gardener.

Don't put them down the drain; your pipes won't like it and wastewater plants can't remove all the toxins. Never mix old garden chemicals into one container; they may react in spectacularly bad ways.

Empty containers need special handling, too. Plastic or glass bottles of pesticide, herbicide, fungicide and other products can't be added to recycling containers. Instead, they need to be treated as if they still contain those products because they do; the residue remains in the bottle. Never reuse an empty pesticide container.

But how do you get rid of them? Several waste treatment centers are available in our area. For Sacramento, the main facility is the Sacramento Recycling and Transfer Station Hazardous Waste Collection Facility, 8491 ´╗┐Fruitridge Road, Sacramento; 916-379-0500.

To find the closest one to you, go to and use its handy "dispose responsibly" links.

When transporting the chemicals and empty containers, put them in the trunk of your car, not the passenger compartment. (Some old chemicals may leak and cause fumes.) Keep containers upright. Make sure no food, animal feed or clothing is in the trunk with the chemicals; they can get contaminated.

For more tips on pesticide safety, check out this information from the state EPA:

The University of California Cooperative Extension also offers a wealth of pesticide safety information here:

Get lots of tips on safe use and storage of garden chemicals (including videos) at .


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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