Pesticides Q & A for Nova Scotia

Question:  What is a pesticide?

Answer:  A pesticide is any product that is registered with Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) for the control of a pest – including weeds, insects and diseases.  Herbicides (for weeds/plants) and insecticides (for insects) are both types of pesticides.  Some pesticides are chemical based, some are organic, and some are biological.  

Question:  Are pesticides harmful to people or pets?

Answer:   It depends on the pesticide and the method it is applied.  Health Canada undergoes a rigourous analysis of all pesticides and their impacts on people, animals and the environment before approving them for use.  This includes sensitive subpopulations, like young children, expectant mothers, acquatic life and non target species (like honeybees).  Health Canada sets out specific instructions on mixing, application methods, re-entry times and risk factors.   Many products commonly available are not risk free; however, by following label instructions people and pests will be protected from harm.  
Toxicity of pesticides is measured by Health Canada.  Keep in mind that whether a product is chemical or organic/natural is not a guarantee of its safety.  Some organic/natural products are highly toxic and some chemical products have low toxicity.

Question:  Are all pesticides banned in Nova Scotia?

Answer:  No.  The Province of Nova Scotia passed new pesticide rules called the Non-Essential Pesticides Control Act in 2011.  This new legislation prohibits the use of pesticides on lawns and ornamental trees, shrubs and plants unless the pesticide in question is included on an Allowable List.  These rules apply to commercial landscape professionals, homeowners and to all types of properties – residential, commercial, and public (schools, hospitals, parks, sports fields, etc).  

Question:  What pesticides am I allowed to use?

Answer:  You are only permitted to use  those pesticides included on the Allowable List, found at  This list includes products that are considered by the Nova Scotia Government to pose a lower risk to humans and the environment based on their toxicity, persistence in the environment and ability to bioaccumulate in living organisms.

Question:  Are there any exceptions to the new pesticide rules?

Answer:  Yes.  The forestry, agriculture and golf industries are all exempted from the provincial rules and the new provincial restrictions do not apply to them.   Further,  pesticides not on the Allowable List are permitted to combat pests that are harmful to human health, or that can damage the environment, economy or buildings/machines.  Examples would include the European Fire Ant, poison ivy, or carpenter ants.

Question:  How do these new rules work with existing municipal pesticide bans, such as HRM’s?

Answer:  The new provincial pesticide rules do not replace existing municipal pesticide bylaws.  However, to the extent the municipal bylaw is inconsistent with the provincial rules, it is no longer valid.  If you have questions about the rules in the municipality where you reside, contact your municipality.

Question:  I have a weed/insect problem and am not sure what to do.  Who do I consult?

Answer:  Speak to your local landscape professional or nursery/garden centre.  We are licensed and trained in the treatment of lawn pests and can assist you in identifying your lawn pest and proper methods of treatment.  This can include which allowable pesticides to use to combat the problem, and also alternative treatments that don’t involve pesticides.  We are the experts and are happy to help.

The Voice of Nova Scotia's Landscape & Horticultural Industry

Tips on Lawn Care

Why keep a healthy lawn? Here's a couple reasons.

  • Lawns provide significant environmental benefits they convert carbon dioxide to oxygen,prevent erosion, filter water back into underground water supply and cool the atmosphere!
  • Lawns are a safe place to play and enjoy the outdoors!
  • Well-cared-for lawns increase property values and “curb appeal”!

Learn how to keep your lawn it's best!


  • Regularly mow to a height of 6½ - 7½ cm. Longer grass is healthier – results in longer root systems, keeps soil cool and prevents weeds from germinating;
  • Sharpen your mower blade  1-3 times a year;
  • Leave clippings on lawn (using a mulching mower will help).


  • To keep lawn green throughout summer, recommended amount is 2.5cm a week (incl. rainfall);
  • Water early morning or early evening to prevent evaporation loss;

Maintain Proper Fertility

  • Healthy, thick turf achieved with seasonal fertility program – we recommend spring, summer and fall applications of slow release, high quality fertilizer;
  • Thick healthy turf is best defense against weeds and insects.
  • Annual liming to maintain soil pH will improve fertilizer performance


  • Overseed in spring and fall to thicken turf and repair damaged or thin areas (weeds and insects prefer those areas);
  • Consider overseeding with new grass cultivars that are pest resistant.

Reduce Thatch/Compaction

  • Mechanical core aeration relieves soil compaction and thatch build up
  • Aeration promotes root development through nutrient oxygen and water penetration
  • Leave cores on lawn as compost
  • Consider vigourous raking to reduce thatch.  Be careful when using dethatching machines as they can damage  healthy turf.


  • If hand weeding, fill holes created by weed removal with soil and grass seed
  • If you use pesticides, always follow the product label and use only approved products
  • If unsure of rules or application methods, consult with a landscape professional or your local nursery/garden centre