This week’s wild winter weather may have pushed away thoughts of gardening and lawn care, but consumers will also find a drastically different landscape when they shop for pesticide products later this month. Retail shelves have been stripped of many familiar brands and labels to comply with Ontario’s new cosmetic pesticide ban, which takes effect, appropriately, on April 22, Earth Day. Birth defects, prostate cancer, asthma, developmental delays, Parkinson’s, nervous system disruption and immuno-toxicity have all been linked to pesticide use. In 1991, the tiny town of Hudson, Que., became the first municipality to pass a bylaw banning the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. After a decade of legal battles, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the municipality’s right to implement the ban. Ontario’s legislation was passed into law March 4. It bans more than 250 pesticides and replaces a patchwork of municipal bylaws, meaning homeowners, landscapers, retailers and lawn-care companies will all be treated equally wherever they are in the province. Although it’s likely to create some initial confusion, Bill Norman of Norman’s Garden Gallery said, “We think it’s a move in the right direction. I believe it can be done. You can have a very abundant garden and lawn (without the banned chemical pesticides). We have to learn new methods and techniques.” There is still a bit of confusion, said Norman, and the timing of the ban didn’t help. “The only negative thing from our point of view is we’ve got some inventory we’ve now got to dispose of,” he said, noting it will have to be handled as hazardous waste. They’re also dealing with supplies that have already been shipped to the store this spring. “The government left it rather late, and so we’re working with our suppliers as we’ve received supplies of products that are now banned.” Despite those bumps along the road, Norman said it’s sometimes necessary to take action to force people to change their habits. “We’ve had natural fertilizer in the store for several years, but, except for the most dedicated gardener, most people will go for the sure thing,” he said, referring to chemical pesticides. “By banning it, more of us will be forced to look at alternative ways of getting results.” Advocates predict continued concern for the environment will create new products and options for both commercial businesses and homeowners. To help consumers understand available options, Norman’s Garden Gallery is running seminars on April 17, 18 and 19 with information on controlling bugs, weeds and new water retention products. No registration is required, but Norman suggests people call for exact times and topics for the upcoming workshops. Sara Gardner has been fielding questions from consumers, as well. The owner of the local Weedman franchise said they’ve been busy preparing for the ban, experimenting with alternatives over the past few seasons. Her family has owned Weedman since 1996. Throughout that time, she has seen a shift in the products available. “There are new products regularly, and the new products that come out are better for the environment and you usually have to use less of them.” Last year, they tried a natural weed-control product called Sarritor in Georgian Bay Township, and this year will expand its use. “We are going to be using all-natural organic products this year for the most part.” The granular, biological herbicide was developed by a professor at McGill University, and is effective on broadleaf weeds such as dandelions and plantain. Gardner said there are pros and cons to the new methods. “It’s good because people and pets can go on the lawn right away. You don’t have to wait until it’s dry like the old way. It’s very low in toxicity.” However, she pointed out, it is more expensive and a more complicated process. “It’s more costly for us, and we have to pass some of that increase on to the customer. It’s more time-consuming and more labour-intensive, too,” she explained. “It’s a granular product which has to be applied directly on the weed. After it’s applied, it needs to be watered in. It’s also very sensitive to environmental conditions. The temperature has to be ideal.” Gardner said they will be using other products for natural pest control, such as nemotoads to combat white grubs. “Nemotoads have been around for a while. It’s a biological control.” The microscopic worms are mixed with water and then sprayed on the lawn. “After we do apply it, the customer has to water the lawn to help it go down into the soil where they search for grubs. They penetrate the grubs, turning it into a food source and (killing) it.” Again, it’s a little more complex, as temperature plays a factor and the soil has to be moist, but it is a healthier alternative to chemical pesticides. She said Weedman started using an organic top dressing several years ago; a new grass seed containing endophytes, which enhances resistance to insects, is also available. “We welcome the new legislation, and we’re ready for it. Our business is growing, and we’re looking forward to a great season.” Weedman will be at the Midland Home Show at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre from April 24-26 to help customers learn more.