Winter pesticide storage important
By Tara McKnight
Texas AgriLife Extension Service agent, horticulture, Wichita County
Now that winter is here it's time to properly store any unused fertilizers and pesticides. This critically important Earth Kind practice will play a key role in creating a healthy and sustainable landscape environment.
Environmental contamination from fertilizers and pesticides occurs most frequently in storage areas, where these materials are concentrated--not from their routine use in the landscape. Therefore properly storing lawn and garden chemicals is an extremely important Earth Kind practice that can definitely preserve and protect our environment. Now that winter is here most unused fertilizers and pesticides will be placed in storage until they are needed next spring. Now is the perfect time to prepare a safe holding area for these materials. Proper storage is important for many reasons, including environmental protection, human (and pet) health concerns, as well as maintaining the effectiveness of the chemicals and fertilizers. Although there are numerous considerations, generally speaking a winter storage area or facility should be:
--Secure from children and pets;
--Well-ventilated to eliminate fumes and vapors;
--Well-lit when in use to make it easy to read product labels;
--"High and dry," especially from potential flooding;
--Large enough to allow for separation of various pesticides and fertilizers;
--Enclosed in such a manner that leaks/spills may be contained and cleaned quickly;
--Protected from extreme heat and COLD to preserve chemical effectiveness.
The storage area must be secure from unwanted visitors, both people and animals. Good lighting and ventilation are important to the personal health of the user(s) of the facility. In addition, proper ventilation can prevent volatile chemicals from contaminating other materials in storage. Separation of chemicals in storage by type is additional insurance against contamination. Flammable liquids must be stored outside living areas and away from ignition sources. Dampness is a serious problem, as it reduces the shelf life of many chemicals and causes metal and paper containers to degrade. It is imperative that storage areas be secure from flooding. Temperature extremes can also affect product shelf life. In addition, heat increases the volatility of stored chemicals while freezing can cause some types of containers to rupture. If specific temperature ranges are required for proper storage, they will be found on the product label. Finally, the site must allow for containment of spills and/or leaks. Ideally, clean-up materials (absorbents, water) will be near at hand.
Chemicals and the containers in which they are to be held must be in good condition. Whenever possible, pesticides and fertilizers should be kept in their original containers. In all cases, a legible product label must be attached to the chemical container. Never transfer excess pesticide or fertilizers to an empty food container. Do not store pesticides with or near food, medicine, or cleaning supplies. An updated storage inventory allows for keeping track of what has been placed in storage and also helps in planning purchases next season. Useful records may include product name, active ingredient, date of purchase, and date and volume stored.
Perhaps the BEST way to minimize storage problems is to plan ahead, and buy pesticides and fertilizers one season at a time. The small-volume containers that seemed expensive in the spring may, in fact, be the "best buy" in the long run.
Your garden and landscape questions are always welcome. You may either contact me at our County Extension office, 940-716-8610, or by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. You are always encouraged to visit the Wichita County Master Gardner website at www.overthegardengate.org. Another great website to visit for very useful garden hints and answers is http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/. This article, along with every article, will also be featured on www.joetomwhite.com 24 hours a day under county agents.