Skip to main content
Down the Garden Path

Using Pesticides Safely

Our growing season has really gotten going finally and with all the good comes some bad from time to time. Gardeners have become much more aware of what we do in our individual home landscapes have a larger impact on the environment especially when you add up the amount of land in our neighborhoods, then the city or village. It is estimated that there are about 50 million (50, 000,000) acres of turf in the United States, 75% of that is in home lawns. It is easy to how homeowners can impact ground water, wildlife and more by what we apply in our yards.

Image removed.

There are those times when applying a pesticide is the right pest management strategy. Often times pesticides are the first remedy chosen without realizing there are other ways to control a pest. Examples include using mulch in the perennial flower bed to reduce or limit weeds rather than applying a preventative herbicide. A few grubs in the lawn would not justify a treatment. The lawn can support 120 or 12 grubs per square foot before a treatment is justified. The occasional outbreak of aphids on the peppers can be handled with a strong stream of water rather than an insecticide that then limits when the peppers can be harvested and eaten.

There are a couple of phrases that gardeners hear especially related to using pesticides. One is "Read the label before you buy, use and dispose of a pesticide" and Integrated Pest Management (IPM). That label is actually a legal document that needs to be followed. The label will tell you if the pest you want to control will be controlled and on what plants it can be used. If for example you are treating vegetables or fruits, how long after you treat do you have to wait to harvest and use the fruits and vegetables. Some pesticides cannot be used on edible plants because of the active ingredient that would be absorbed. All this important information is on the label. How you should apply the pesticide and what kind of clothing you should wear is also there. IPM is all about taking into account all of the things a gardener can do to manage a pest before or even if you every have to make a spray treatment. IPM applies to weed, insect and disease management. An example is perhaps managing the weeds around the garden that harbor a disease that is spread by insects. Those newer to gardening and those who have been gardening a long time need to read the label as active ingredients in the product can change while the trade name will not. There are new products that are very different than those we are used to. An example of recent label change includes the additional warnings related to the

survival of our pollinating insects, especially our bees that now appear on certain classes of insecticides. There are also brand new active ingredients in new product offerings that have application instructions different than what we have become used to. Use pesticides responsibly and only when absolutely necessary and be sure to read that label!