Best Management Practices for Pesticide-Free CT School Landscapes

By Vickie Wallace and Alyssa Siegel-Miles

In 2010, Connecticut law banned the use of EPA registered pesticides on school grounds (Connecticut General Assembly, 2009). This legislation has compelled school grounds managers (SGM) to think proactively and make fundamental changes to their management programs. SGM must now emphasize sound cultural practices. Pest management (in particular, weed management) has presented a serious maintenance challenge on school ground properties.

Pesticide-free management requires significant alterations to pest control strategy. In the past, many school grounds managers incorporated chemical products into their maintenance regime to manage weeds, insects, and/or diseases, either preventatively or curatively. SGM must now navigate a complex web of information to identify effective methods to manage or control pests. Additionally, pesticide-free school grounds maintenance requires an increase in time, commitment, and labor resources (Bartholomew, Campbell, Wallace, 2015). Lacking a corresponding increase in school maintenance budgets, many SGM struggle with pesticide-free management programs.

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance for effective maintenance of pesticide-free school landscapes. Research-based information has been utilized throughout this document to provide sound horticultural recommendations.

Implementing realistic, sound cultural practices throughout the year will help improve aesthetics, promote sustainability, and enhance the health of plants on school grounds. Attractive, uncluttered landscaping (Figure 1) on school properties reduces stress and improves the quality of life for school faculty, staff, and students (Dyment & Bell, 2007, Matsouka, 2010).

This publication will address the primary cultural practices for managing pesticide-free school landscaped areas: pre-plant practices, fertilization, irrigation, pest management, plant selection, and other maintenance tasks, such as pruning. Sustainable plant selection for both central and periphery areas will be covered.

For guidance and information on school pesticide-free athletic fields, refer to Best Management Practices for Pesticide-Free, Cool-Season Athletic Fields, Second Edition ( FieldBMP).


  • Connecticut's Pesticide Law
  • Sustainable Landscaping Principles
  • Plant Selection
    • Preparation and design
  • Sustainable High Visibility Areas
    • Courtyards, Lawns
  • Sustainable Naturalized Areas
    • Meadows/Tall Grass Areas
    • Wetlands
  • Plant Health Care, Cultural Practices, and Maintenance of School Grounds
  • Pest Control


And more! Read the complete document here.

Pyramid of IPM Tactics for School Grounds, revised from IPM for Pennsylvania Schools and Childcares Manual.
Pyramid of IPM Tactics for School Grounds, revised from IPM for Pennsylvania Schools and Childcares Manual.


K-8 school grounds and athletic field managers have utilized Integrated Pest Management (IPM) protocol for many years. Use of sound IPM principles has become even more critical due to the restrictions and limitations of products available for use in a pesticide-free environment. Connecticut is one of only two U.S. states with a state-wide pesticide ban for the grounds of K-8 schools and day care centers.

IPM is a system of pest management practices that uses all available pest control techniques. The goal of an IPM program is to manage a pest population at or below an acceptable threshold level, while decreasing the overall use of pesticides.  

Often, preventive, cultural, and mechanical tactics are successful, which can substantially reduce the need for chemical applications. IPM practitioners always strive to address and correct the root causes of pest problems.

Healthy, sustainable school landscapes provide environmental advantages and support educational opportunities for the school community. By necessity, municipal and facility managers that maintain school properties must prioritize compliance with the law and school safety, while managing limited budgets. At the same time, managers can also improve the sustainability and environmental benefits of school landscapes.


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  • Proper plant selection is the most important step in designing a sustainable landscape.
  • “Right plant, right place” is the fundamental principle for the environmentally sound management of landscapes. Plants should be selected for not only aesthetic value, but also because they are adapted to the existing microclimate, including soil and water conditions.
  • Plants selected should be biologically diverse and allow for reduced irrigation, fertilizer, and soil amendment inputs, as well as reduced costs associated with labor.
  • Establishing strong, healthy, dense plantings is crucial for pest management in sustainable school landscapes. A vigorous, healthy, unstressed plant can usually survive, avoid, or outcompete many potential disease, insect, and weed pests without further intervention by grounds managers.
  • Native plants are best adapted to the local soils and site conditions. Incorporating native plants helps to restore local ecosystems that support a wide variety of indigenous and beneficial insect, bird, and animal species. Whenever new construction or building renovation occurs, the design of the landscaped areas, including in the high visibility focal points (Figure 6), should be amended to include site-appropriate native plant material. Over time, as these native plants become established, they can increase biodiversity and contribute to a reduction in expense and time spent on maintenance.

A healthy and diverse landscape supports naturally occurring beneficial insects. Native predators and parasitoids will help control harmful pests when provided the opportunity and necessary habitat for their survival. Many practices that support pollinators also support beneficial predators.




  1. Bartholomew, C., B. Campbell, V. Wallace. 2015. Factors Affecting School Grounds and Athletic Field Quality after Pesticide
    Bans: The Case of Connecticut. HortScience. 50(1):99-103.
  2. Connecticut General Assembly. 2009. An Act Concerning Pesticide Applications at Child Day Care Centers and Schools.
  3. Dyment, J. and A. C. Bell. 2007. Active by Design: Promoting Physical Activity through School Ground Greening. Children's
    Geographies. 5:4, 463-477, DOI: 10.1080/14733280701631965
  4. Matsuoka, R.H. 2010. Student Performance and High School Landscapes. Landscape and Urban Planning, 97, pp. 273-282

Questions? Contact:

Vickie Wallace
UConn Extension
Extension Educator
Sustainable Turf and Landscape
Phone: (860) 885-2826

Photos by Alyssa Siegel-Miles and Victoria Wallace.

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