Yards and Gardens
The Bay Area’s mild climate allows us to create and enjoy stunningly beautiful yards and gardens. But rain and irrigation water can wash garden chemicals off plants and soil, carrying them into storm drains and from here into our local creeks and the Bay.
The Clean Water Program regularly monitors the health and water quality of local waterways, and has found pesticides in streams throughout the Bay Area and California. These chemicals affect the health of insects, amphibians, fish and birds—all part of a vibrant creek ecosystem that is important for flood control, as a food source and to ensure the safety of our drinking water.
Some simple practices can help not only reduce or even eliminate pollution from gardening chemicals, but also make your yard safer for pets and kids. Plus, chances are you’ll spend less time and money on garden maintenance, and more hours enjoying it!
What You Can Do
Control pests with non-toxic alternatives.
These practices include handpicking, traps, and encouraging predatory insects. Explore our fact sheets, including tips for specific pests and garden problems.
Ask an expert!
Our Water Our World, a project supported by the Clean Water Program, answers garden pest questions by email. Submit a question.
Find out where to buy less-toxic products.
Many local hardware stores and nurseries provide a wide variety of less-toxic pest control products and have been trained by Our Water Our World experts. Find a location near you.
Choose native and drought tolerant plants.
They are generally less susceptible to pests and need less maintenance. Get inspired on garden tours organized by Bringing Back the Natives.
Dispose properly of unused pesticides
...and other garden chemicals at a household hazardous waste facility.
Be water smart!
Apply garden chemicals only when there is no rain in the forecast, and don’t overwater. The water we use on our gardens is chlorinated, and runoff can be dangerous to aquatic life.
Make the most of rainwater.
Instead of letting rainwater rush off your property and into storm drains, you can capture it with rain barrels or so-called rain gardens - landscaped areas that absorb and filter rainwater. These practices conserve water and protect our local streams. Check out the Rainwater Harvesting fact sheets below.
General Fact Sheets
- Safe Use & Disposal of Pesticides (English, Spanish)
- Problem Pesticides (English, Spanish)
- Pocket Guide for choosing less toxic products
- Finding a Pest Control Company
Insect-specific Fact Sheets
Spray bottle label featuring non-toxic pest control recipes you can make at home! Print label and stick on any clean plastic spray bottle.
Check out the 8-page "Summer Reeds" for tips on low-toxic gardening, best ways to control ants, all about bees and more!