Spring is just around the corner and that means that plant diseases, insect pests and weeds will be here soon, too. This is the time that many gardeners will be gearing up to spray with pesticides. When using pesticides, it is very important to know how to properly apply these products.
Last year, UGA Extension sent an email to Georgia Extension Agents about a man who accidentally killed his lawn with a product he thought was just for weed control.
On the back of the bottle under “use precautions,” it plainly stated, “do not use on desirable plants,” and “do not use in lawns.” He made a huge mistake.
The herbicide contained the active ingredients glyphosate, which most of you know as Roundup, and prodiamine, which blocks new plant growth.
So the homeowner not only lost his lawn, but he could not replant for a while due to prodiamine in the herbicide. He said he talked to three employees at his local garden center before he bought the product, but none of them warned him that the herbicide would kill his lawn.
This story prompts me to remind everyone how important it is to read the label on pesticides and herbicides. When people call me about a pesticide, I always tell them, “Be sure to read the label.”
The label gives you important information about how to use the pesticide effectively and safely. You should always read the label before you buy the product and read it again before you use the product.
Do not rely on your memory when you buy a pesticide that you have used before. Read the name of the pesticide product carefully because many pesticides for the home, yard and garden have similar names and packaging. Be sure you are buying the right product.
I’ve had people tell me they accidently sprayed their lawn or plants with a herbicide when they thought they had actually picked up an insecticide. So, pay close attention to what you use.
Getting into the habit of looking at the label every time you use a product can prevent these kinds of mix-ups from happening, and also keeps you, your landscape, and the people around you safe.
It is important that you follow the directions exactly as they are given on the label, and only use the pesticide on sites or plants that are listed on the label. When a plant is not listed on the label, it could mean the pesticide has not been tested on them, and that it could harm or kill that plant.
The pesticide label will tell you how to apply the product, when to apply it and how much to use for different areas and different pests. For example, an insecticide may list one amount for certain insect pests, and another amount for other pests. Never use more than the label prescribes.
Using more can be wasteful, damage the plants, leave an excess amount of the chemical on your food crops or harm non-target organisms, such as beneficial insects.
The label will also tell you whether a product is safe to use inside your home, whether it is safe to use on food crops and whether you need to keep children and pets away from a treated area after you spray.
Many turf and ornamental pesticides should not be used on vegetables, fruit crops, herbs or anything else that you plan to eat.
The pesticide label also will list special precautions to take. These include keeping other people - especially children - and pets away from the area where the pesticide was applied. It will also include warnings about not applying pesticides when it is wet or windy to prevent the pesticide from drifting or running off into storm water.
Pesticide labels always contain a signal word that will tell you how toxic the product is to humans. These three signal words are caution, warning or danger. Signal words will usually be in capital letters. The least toxic products carry the signal word CAUTION. Products with the signal word WARNING are more toxic. The most toxic pesticides have DANGER on their labels.
And finally, the label will tell you what steps to take if someone has accidentally ingested or inhaled the chemical or gotten it on their skin or in their eyes.
Randy Drinkard is a technical writer for The UGA Center for Urban Agriculture and ANR Agent for Troup/Meriwether Cooperative Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.