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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 April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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