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Shed alert

Last modified: 17 March 2011

Blue tit on branch

Image: Nigel Blake

As millions of gardeners emerge from the winter slumber and look forward to the new season, they are being reminded to use and dispose of garden care chemicals safely to avoid harming wildlife.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Crop Protection Association have joined forces to advise gardeners on the safe use and disposal of chemicals this spring.

The wildlife charity and the garden care manufacturers’ industry body want gardeners to be able to maximise their gardens for wildlife. If they choose to use garden care chemicals they want to ensure gardeners are aware of the potential dangers of not using them correctly.

Gardens can be turned into wildlife havens by growing a wide variety of plants to provide food and shelter for all kinds of creatures. However, from time to time action may be required to help plants that are being eaten by insects, weakened by fungal diseases or crowded out by weeds for example.

Natural methods, like increasing the range of plants, are best, but if that is insufficient, the use of garden care chemicals such as weedkillers can be considered.

The RSPB and the CPA are urging gardeners to use these safely.  They are also warning that safe disposal is as important as safe use. Incorrect disposal can lead to a risk of water pollution that could potentially be harmful to wildlife.

The two organisations are issuing key guidance in a new leaflet to be distributed in the top 500 garden centres around the UK, as well as various other outlets.

Ways to ensure safe use:

-       Do not buy more than you need

-       Read the label and use according to instructions

-       Check for any restrictions on use – ie near ponds, fish tanks etc

-       Use appropriate equipment to apply the chemical

-       Accurately measure the product. Do not make up more than you need

-       Only use on the area/plants where you identify a problem that needs tackling

-       Spray early morning or late evening when bees and other insects are less active

-       Spray in calm conditions, avoid spraying in strong sunshine and before or just after rain

-       Consider Ready to Use products which can be reused until empty and disposed of in household waste

Ways to ensure safe disposal:

-       Use up surplus spray solution by applying on the areas covered by the approved use

-       Never dispose of unwanted product, diluted product or rinsings in household drains or ditches

-       Rinse empty containers three times and use up rinsings by applying to the area you are treating. Containers can then be safely disposed of in household waste

-       Dispose of unused product in its container at a registered household waste site

Darren Moorcroft from the RSPB says: “As we shrug off the inertia of winter, one of the first ‘must do’ jobs is to sort out our gardens ready for the time when we can sit in them and enjoy the fruits of our labour.

“Lots of people will want to start the green fingered season with a spring clean of sheds and cupboards.

“Although natural pest control is always best, the RSPB knows that from time to time people need to turn to garden care chemicals and they may take one look at the dusty, faded bottle of chemical and be tempted to throw it in the bin.

“But it’s essential that this is done properly, or it could harm wildlife.

“The RSPB and the CPA have teamed up to advise people on the safe way to use Garden Care Chemicals and how to dispose of them properly, to ensure everyone controls garden pests with wildlife in mind.”

Dominic Dyer from the CPA says: “Garden Care chemicals are very useful tools for gardeners to combat many common problems in the garden, conservatory and greenhouse due to disease, insects and weeds. They are highly regulated and when used as part of an integrated approach according to label instructions, they are highly effective with no adverse effects on the user and the garden environment. 

To download the pdf of the Controlling garden pests with wildlife in mind leaflet visit or