Proper Use of Fertilizers and Pesticides

Take these simple steps to keep fertilizers and pesticides out of waterways and drinking water sources.

  • Before applying fertilizer, test your soil and apply only the amount recommended.  Contact one of the labs below about soil testing:

University of Connecticut soil testing lab
University of Massachusetts soil testing lab

  • Use slow-release or organic fertilizers.
  • Improve soil fertility by adjusting the soil pH. For many plants, especially lawns, this involves applying lime to raise the pH. Soil fertility is also improved by using compost or mulch, which increases soil organic matter.
  • View our Healthy Lawn Care Fertilizer Guidelines.
  • Before applying a pesticide, learn about the pest — identify cultural, mechanical, biological options for controlling the problem rather than using pesticides.  Find out if the pest problem is due to improper fertilization, watering or mowing practices as these can cause shallow roots, disease and other lawn health problems. Contact the URI Plant Protection Clinic: (401) 874-2900 for help.
  • If a pest problem has been identified, determine if uniform treatment is needed or if spot treatment can work.  Whenever possible, choose the least toxic alternative.
  • Apply the amount of fertilizer and/or pesticide intended by measuring the treatment area and calibrating your spreader.
  • Avoid applying fertilizers and pesticides on paved surfaces and near storm drains, surface waters and drinking water wells. Drop spreaders allow for more controlled, targeted applications.
  • Always read label directions carefully and store these products in dry, well-ventilated places in their original containers.
  • Buy only the amount needed and dispose of unused products properly. Contact the RI Eco-Depot for proper disposal options.

Download a Printable Factsheet:

Use fertilizers and pesticides responsibly

Use and dispose of fuels and hazardous products properly 


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