Spring cleaning is upon us and there's no better place to start than the garage or garden shed. Metro natural gardening expert Carl Grimm showed us how to detoxify our storage area of hazardous garden chemicals.
What's toxic in the garage or garden shed?
Pesticides are among the most toxic products commonly found in a home. They include weed and feed for lawns, other weed killers, bug sprays, fungicides, moss killers, slug and snail baits, rodent poison, flea powders and moth balls.
Automotive products can also be hazardous. These include gas, oil, solvents and cleaners.
Paints, sealants and thinners can be toxic, too, especially the oil-based ones.
Glues and caulks often contain toxic substances. Latex- or water-based products and ones labeled "low VOC" are usually less-hazardous choices.
Keep all toxics in a secure, dry place away from children and pets.
If you can do without any of them, bring them to a Metro hazardous waste disposal site.
Metro's hazardous waste sites are free with a garden-chemical disposal coupon
Metro operates two household hazardous waste disposal sites - one in Northwest Portland and one in Oregon City. The cost is only $5 for residents with 35 gallons or less, but with a coupon from Metro for loads that include garden chemicals, the fee is waived.
When transporting toxics for disposal, make sure products are properly sealed to prevent leaks and spills. Keep products in original containers. Don't mix products together. Dangerous reactions can occur when some materials are mixed.
Put containers in sturdy boxes in the trunk of your vehicle, away from the driver, passengers and pets. Containers and boxes, including gasoline cans, cannot be returned to you, so make sure you don't need them for future use. Do not put items in plastic bags.
Great alternatives to common chemicals
Instead of weed and feed, sprinkle organic fertilizer mixed with grass seed over the lawn in spring or fall so the grass can out-compete the weeds. Let the grass clippings lie on the lawn after regular mowing (a.k.a. mulch mowing or grasscycling) to provide vital nutrients that keep soil and grass healthy.
Instead of metaldehyde slug bait, hand-pick at night and use the less-toxic iron phosphate bait for sensitive young plants. Older plants are usually fine with a little nibbling on their edges. Plus slugs are a great source of protein for visiting song birds.
Instead of weed killers, use hand-weeding tools. Get weeds out by the root and always seed, plant or mulch over the spot you pull a weed so you slow or stop their regrowth.
Metro provides free information to help you maintain a safe and healthy home and yard, including online tools, videos, booklets and coupons. Call 503-234-3000 or visit oregonmetro.gov. You can also sign up for Metro's monthly gardening e-newsletter and follow Metro on Facebook and Twitter, too!