Pesticides In Your Cannabis Garden: Tips To Use Them Responsibly 

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Added 06 March 2023

Tips to use pesticides on cannabis responsibly

Pesticides have come under a lot of flak in recent years due to their harsh environment, but often, this damage is caused when the user is not careful with the pesticides.

Pesticides are terrific tools for gardeners as they effectively eliminate pests from their plants but can have several negative consequences when not used properly. They can affect the quality of your yield and even pose a risk to your health and the environment.

Plus, in many countries, the use of pesticides is moderated by government authorities to ensure safety. If you don't abide by these regulations, you may end up on the wrong side of the law. 

So, how to use pesticides safely? By being a responsible gardener, of course. 

Learn how to be one in this article. 

Why Should You be Careful When Using Cannabis Pesticides?

Why Should You be Careful When Using Cannabis Pesticides?

Pesticides have always been a highly debated topic in the cannabis community, but one can't deny the benefits they offer to the grower in managing pests in their gardens. Yet, several studies and anecdotal data show that pesticides can be potentially harmful to plants, growers, and the environment. 

Let's look at why you must be careful when using pesticides in your cannabis garden. 

1. To Ensure Your Safety

One of the primary reasons for the careful use of pesticides is your safety. Pesticides are designed to eliminate pests, but some can also be toxic for humans (and pets)

If you’re not careful, regular exposure to pesticides can lead to various health complications, starting with acute poisoning symptoms like dizziness, headaches, nausea, skin irritation, etc. 

Long-term exposure, on the other hand, can lead to severe problems including respiratory issues, skin conditions, neurological damage, and in extreme cases, an increased risk of cancer. 

2. To Safeguard the End User

Pesticides are potentially harmful to your customers if you sell cannabis buds. The traces of pesticides can still be found in buds after they have been dried and cured — this is a direct pathway into the user's bloodstream. 

There isn't any substantial data on the harm of residual pesticides on cannabis buds, but we can refer to another similar product, tobacco, to get an idea of how harmful pesticides can be. 

According to a study published in 2002, up to 15.5% of the pyrethroid pesticides used on the tobacco plant found their way into the cigarette. Experts also found several pesticide residues in the cotton filter used in cigarettes. 

This gives us an idea that using the wrong pesticides or improper application can add a level of risk to your cannabis buds. Plus, unlike cigarettes, most joints usually don't contain a cotton filter, increasing the risk for the end user. 

This is supported by a study published in the Journal of Toxicology (2013), where experts found that up to 69% pesticide residue can be found in cannabis buds. 

So, another reason you must be responsible while using pesticides is to ensure no residual pesticide ends up in your end product, which may harm your customer's health, especially if your customers use cannabis for medicinal purposes.

3. To Protect the Environment

Pesticides, by nature, are harsh and can have multiple negative impacts on your local environment. They can sometimes harm beneficial insects, mammals, and birds. Some pesticides also linger around in the environment for a long time, causing damage to the water and soil. 

One of the central tenets of using pesticides is to ensure it does not end up in the wrong place. Otherwise, it may harm the environment. In the long run, this problem can make it difficult for plants to grow in the same location if the soil or water is riddled with pesticides.

4. To Be on the Good Side of the Law

In some countries, the use of certain pesticides is strictly prohibited. So, as per your local area's regulations, you need to use suitable approved pesticides. 

While this is not a problem for most hobby growers — we don't use agriculture-grade pesticides on your plants — it is still a good idea to check your local laws regarding the use of pesticides.

Tips on Using Pesticides Responsibly for Growing Cannabis

Tips on Using Pesticides Responsibly for Growing Cannabis

The above sections may make pesticides look like the worst thing ever, but they are far from it. If used in moderation and with the correct methods, pesticides are harmless and can benefit your cannabis garden.

Let's look at some ways you can use pesticides properly in your cannabis garden to avoid any harm to yourself, your customer, and the environment.

1. Choose Between Organic and Chemical Pesticides

When it comes to pesticides, there are two categories that you can choose from — organic and chemical.

As the name suggests, organic pesticides are natural and don't contain many harsh chemicals. They are prepared from plant extracts or beneficial fungi or bacteria. 

For a home grower, organic pesticides offer the best advantage. They are reliable, easy to prepare and use, and don't harm the environment, making them perfect for most growers. 

On the other hand, chemical pesticides are often synthetic and formulated in laboratories. They contain several chemicals that deter or eliminate pests, but these chemicals are harsh and can damage your plants and ecosystem and even harm you. So, chemical pesticides are best reserved for large-scale operations and severe cases of pests. 

2. Follow the Manufacturer's Recommendations

If you purchase pesticides from your local gardening store, always choose a reputable brand that offers instructions on using them safely. Of course, make sure you follow those instructions. 

Apart from the instructions, the packaging would include information like the ingredients used, toxicity levels, precautions when applying it, first aid instructions, and the manufacturer's contact details. 

Some pesticides will also come with side effects or other information to help you determine if the pesticide suits your growth setup. For example, avoid using pesticides that may end up harming the beneficial insects in your garden. 

3. Use PPE Kits

Pesticides can sometimes cause side effects if inhaled or made contact with your skin. So, you must minimize your exposure to such pesticides when using them. 

The most effective way to be safe is to use personal protection equipment when mixing and applying it. Here are a few essential pieces of PPE you should consider using:

  • Chemical-resistant gloves that are not made of cotton, canvas, or leather 
  • Full-length trousers and shirts to protect your skin from exposure — you can even use disposable overalls if you have a big garden 
  • Eye protection such as face shields, safety glasses, or goggles for some pesticides 
  • Any other protective gear as recommended by the manufacturer 

Follow these steps, and you will effectively prevent any harmful pesticide exposure. Again, remember that this depends on the kind of pesticide you use. For most home gardens, basic PPE kits are more than enough.

4. Handle the Pesticides with Care

Whether mixing the formulas or applying them to your cannabis plants, you must respect and handle the pesticide carefully. 

For small-scale operations, like a home garden, choose pesticides specifically designed for home use — they are low-concentration, mild formulas often ready to use. 

On the other hand, if you have a more substantial setup, you may need to use high-grade pesticides that require more finesse in handling them. 

When using the products, ensure you limit access to your garden, so your friends, neighbors, or pets don't wander into your garden when the pesticide has been freshly applied. 

Also, never place pesticides in places that can easily be accessed by your pets, children, or other nearby wildlife. If you are applying pesticides in your home garden, ensure your pets and their food and water dishes are far from the garden. 

While rare, if you or someone else is exposed to pesticides and develop a reaction, you need to follow the first aid instructions on the packaging. Contacting your doctor and asking for their advice is also a good idea. Most exposures are mild and don't cause long-term damage, but the short-term side effects may still be uncomfortable to bear. 

5. Avoid Pesticides If You Live Close to Sensitive Environments

Depending on your setup, you may not want to use pesticides if you live close to sensitive environments like schools, playgrounds, beehives, or water sources as the pesticides may pose a risk. 

This is a good practice and can protect you from legal trouble. Some sensitive areas are strictly no-spray zones in some countries, where you can get into legal trouble for using pesticides. 

Check your local regulations and what comes under sensitive areas to determine if it is safe to use pesticides there. 

Additionally, you should also be careful about using pesticides if you live close to another farm, orchard, or garden. The pesticides you use on your cannabis plants may not be safe for other plants. Here, you can discuss your pesticide choice with your neighbors to ensure it won’t pose harm to their crop while protecting you from any legal liability. 

6. Always Conduct a Patch Test

Never spray and pray, hoping the pesticide will work without damaging the plant. Whenever you purchase a new spray, always make sure you carry out a patch test to ensure your plant does not face any side effects.

For a patch test, spray some of the pesticides on one part of the plant and wait a couple of days. If the plant does not develop any side effects in that plant, the pesticide is safe, and you can use it on the entire plant. 

However, if you notice any side effects, it may either be a wrong pesticide or too concentrated for your plant. You need to choose another pesticide that is more suitable for your plant and not as concentrated as the previous one.

7. Use the Right Spraying Methods

Depending on your product, you should always follow the proper steps for applying it to your cannabis plants. Otherwise, you may end up harming your plant and the local ecosystem. 

For example, do not spray on bud sites, as the buds retain pesticide compounds even after curing and drying. You can use various methods, depending on the pest you want to eliminate and the product you use. So, do your research before heading into your garden with the sprayer.  

8. Be Careful of the Temperatures

Temperatures can affect how your pesticides perform on the plant. For example, high temperatures, usually over 85°F or 29°C can make some pesticides more toxic, leading to phytotoxicity in your plants. This is particularly true with oil-based pesticides. 

So, make sure you keep an eye on the temperatures when using any pesticides. Usually, this information can be found in the packaging, but if it is not there, you can look up the same in online forums or blogs. 

9. Avoid Using Adjuvants

Adjuvants are solutions that you mix into the pesticide to increase their performance. Essentially, these solutions include spreader stickers that help the pesticide stick better to the plant. 

Other types of adjuvants may also contain surfactants that help the pesticide spread well or synergists that can make the product more potent on pests. 

While this looks desirable, most pesticides already contain these solutions. If you add more adjuvants, it may be too much for your cannabis plant, and it can suffer from phytotoxicity. So, use adjuvants only if the packaging suggests they may benefit you. 

10. Dispose of the Waste Properly

At the end of it all, you need to be meticulous with how you dispose of the waste, including any leftover pesticide solutions and PPE kits. If you don't do this properly, you may end up contaminating the local soil and groundwater. 

While you can safely dispose of them by burying them and marking the area, there are more sustainable approaches for most growers. Instead, reach out to your local waste disposal agency on how to dispose of them, or take them to your local collection site in well-marked packages. 

As for the clothes you wear during the application process, put them in the washer as soon as you are done with the application. Rinse and line-dry them well. And if you think your clothes are heavily contaminated, don't hesitate to discard them entirely. 

11. Test Your Products for Residues

If you’ve used pesticides on your cannabis plants, you should check your buds for any pesticide residue after the harvest. The trace amounts of it can affect the flavor and potency of the buds and also cause side effects for the user in severe cases.

To test this, you can either do a simple home test with a testing kit or send a sample of your buds to a lab for a detailed analysis. The detailed analysis is excellent for commercial growers as it gives insight into your buds, including their cannabinoid concentrations. 

In most cases, your buds will not have any trace residues of the pesticides if you’ve followed the proper steps during the application process and avoided the buds entirely. But still, it is better to be on the safer side by testing your buds. 

12. Get Licensed

If you plan to use pesticides often, getting licensed to use pesticides is a good idea. In some countries, you are legally required to have a license for using pesticides, especially if you grow cannabis commercially. 

As a licensed cultivator, you will get basic training and some tests to help you use pesticides in your garden more efficiently and responsibly. And this may also protect you from any legal trouble if your area mandates a license to use pesticides. 

Why Should You Use Other Alternatives to Pesticides?

Why Should You Use Other Alternatives to Pesticides?

Given the harsh nature of pesticides, it is always better to employ other strategies to manage pests in your cannabis garden. Here, prevention should be your first approach.

You can prevent pests from entering your cannabis garden with essential organic pesticides that deter pests like thrips, whiteflies, spider mites, and even mold and fungi. 

Additionally, depending on your setup, you should consider setting physical deterrents for pests like traps, nets, or companion plants. This can go a long way in protecting your cannabis plants without pesticides. 

For your reference, here are some of the best organic alternatives to pesticides that you can use in your cannabis garden.

1. Neem Oil

One of the best and most efficacious organic pesticides for cannabis is neem oil, and it is safe to use anywhere in the world as it is entirely harmless to you and your furry little friends. 

While it is safe for beneficial insects like ladybugs and honeybees, it can eliminate other invasive pests like aphids, mites, inchworms, crickets, caterpillars, fungus gnats, thrips, whiteflies, etc. It is also quite effective against fungi and mold spores.

The only downside to neem oil is that some people are allergic to it. So, if it ends up in the buds, it can cause an allergic reaction in some people. 

2. Spinosad

Another organic pesticide you can try is spinosad, which is harmless to plants, children, and pets. It is made by fermenting a type of soil bacteria, which kills the pests when consumed. 

This pesticide is quite effective against crickets, caterpillars, grasshoppers, thrips, spider mites, and aphids. But it can be harmful to honeybees for up to three hours of application, so use it accordingly. 

3. Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is just fossil dust, but it is incredibly sharp at a microscopic level. This powder can easily puncture and dehydrate pests on contact, making it super effective against pests. 

However, diatomaceous earth can only help bring the number of pests down, not completely eliminate them. So, consider using this with another organic pesticide of your choice.

4. Horticultural Oils

Horticultural oils are made from plant extracts and work as natural pesticides that can quickly repel and kill various pests. You can find them in most local gardening stores, and they are easy to use and can help you eliminate aphids, barnacles, spider mites, and other pests on your cannabis.

5. Friendly Predators

Rather than relying on chemicals, use friendly predators to eliminate pests. It’s an effective and natural way to control pest populations without having to use pesticides laden with too many chemicals. 

You’ll find that there are many predatory insects and other creatures that can be introduced into your garden to help control common cannabis pests like spider mites, aphids, thrips, and whiteflies.

Ladybug: Also known as the lady beetle, ladybugs are one of the most common predatory insects used by many cannabis growers. Although ladybugs are famous for devouring aphids, they also prefer eating other pests like spider mites and whiteflies. They can be purchased in large quantities and released into the garden to control pests.

Lacewing: Another friendly predator is the lacewing, known for its larvae that eat aphids, mites, and other small insects. They can be introduced into the garden in the larval stage and will quickly get to work on controlling pests.

Predatory mites: There are also predatory mites such as phytoseiulus persimilis mites that can be used to control spider mites. These tiny mites are not harmful to plants but will eat spider mites and their eggs, preventing further infestations.

Other beneficial predators you can use include nematodes and predatory wasps. While wasps will parasitize and lay their eggs in pest insects, nematodes are microscopic worms that not only eat pest insects but also feed off their larvae.

Remember that you should introduce predators to your garden after careful planning. Firstly, purchase predators from a reputable supplier so they’re healthy and effective. Secondly, you should introduce them into your garden at the right time and not after the pest populations have grown considerably. Thirdly, you need to introduce a substantial amount of friendly predators into your garden for them to be effective. 

In addition, the environment in your grow room should be apt for their survival, or it won't work. For example, ladybugs need water and pollen to survive, which means that you’ll need some sort of flowers and a water source in your grow room. 

Another benefit of using friendly predators is that it saves you money. Commercial pesticides can be expensive, and you’ll need to use them repeatedly to control pest infestations. On the other hand, using predators is a one-time cost and you can use them on a long-term basis if you do it right. 

Finally, using predators is also an environmentally friendly way to control pests. Chemical pesticides can impact the environment in a negative manner and also harm beneficial insects like bees and butterflies. 

Tips for Using Organic Pesticides

Tips for Using Organic Pesticides

As with regular pesticides, even organic pesticides can cause problems if you use them improperly. So, follow these tips to make sure they don't harm your plants or the environment:

  • Start by identifying the pest you want to eliminate and use an organic pesticide that is effective for that pest
  • Research well before using any organic pesticide, as they can also affect your plant and soil if they are too concentrated 
  • Unless it is recommended by the manufacturer, you should not mix organic pesticides as it can overwhelm your plant and cause burns on it 
  • Always conduct a patch test on your plant before using them 
  • Avoid spraying the pesticides on the buds — even if they are organic, they can still impact the flavor of your buds 
  • Dispose of them properly, as some pesticides are harsh and affect the ecosystem — the best way is to bring them in marked containers to your local collection site and let them handle it

Summary: Pesticides In Your Cannabis Garden: Tips To Use Them Responsibly

Once in a while, you may have to use pesticides on your cannabis plants, especially if you have a commercial setup. That's not a bad thing as long as you’re careful about it. With the right approach, you can keep not only your plants safe but also yourself and the environment safe.

To summarize, follow these tips to use pesticides safely on your cannabis plant:

  • Choose the correct type of pesticide for your need.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Protect yourself from harmful exposure with PPE kits. 
  • Avoid pesticides if you live near a sensitive environment like a school or a playground.
  • Always conduct a patch test on the part of your plant before use.
  • Use friendly predators that feed on harmful pests as an alternative.
  • Use a suitable spraying method to ensure maximum efficiency but avoid spraying the buds.
  • Only use adjuvants when necessary and recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Dispose of the waste properly at your local collection sites.
  • Test your products for any trace residues. 
  • Know your local laws regarding the use of pesticides.

Follow these steps, and you will be able to eradicate any pests in your cannabis garden easily without affecting the local environment or your plants. 


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