Deciding among the plenitude of pesticides on garden center shelves, all in colorful packages with large print promises, can be challenging. When buying a pesticide, you’re making an investment. And, as in making any purchase, you want to know what you’re investing in before you put your money down.
Plan ahead before you buy
Are you sure you have a problem that a pesticide can solve? Have you identified the real cause? Weather can lead to some strange plant/environmental reactions, so make sure you have the correct problem identified. An insecticide won’t do you much good against a fungus! If you’ve experienced the problem in the past, investigate and exhaust alternative solutions before you start searching the pesticide shelves.
Read the label before you invest
The pesticide label is the contract between you and the product’s supplier. The label tells you what the product will do and what you must do to make it work effectively.
Like any legal document, the label must carry some words that have very specific meanings. On every pesticide label, you’ll find one of these three words in large, bold print:
- CAUTION: The product is slightly toxic if eaten, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled, or it causes slight eye or skin irritation.
- WARNING: The pesticide is moderately toxic if eaten, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled, or it causes moderate eye or skin irritation.
- DANGER: This pesticide is highly toxic by at least one route of exposure. It may be corrosive, causing irreversible damage to the skin or eyes. Alternatively, it may be highly toxic if eaten, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled. If this is the case, then “POISON” must also be included in red letters on the front panel of the product label.
Be knowledgeable about product application
- Will you need to mix the product with water or do you want to spend a little more for the convenience of a ready-to-use concoction?
- What equipment will you need? Rubber gloves? A sprayer? Make sure your sprayer is in good working order by testing it with water on the driveway . . . not on valuable plants!
- If you need to measure, make sure you have a measuring cup used only for pesticides! And rinse well after every use. Even a tinge of herbicide can work havoc with roses!
- Refresh your memory and adhere to the contract uses of the product. What does it say about application under certain weather conditions—wind, temperature, precipitation? Does the product advise on use near water bodies or when pollinators are present?
Keep a pesticide inventory
Take a rainy afternoon to inventory your pesticide collection! Check the expiration dates and plan environmentally safe disposal of out-of-date pesticides. Maintain a pesticide usage record, including plants, problems, timing, and effectiveness. Your attention to up-front investigation and appropriate usage is a good investment, not only in any pesticide but also in your garden.
Article written by Glenn Palmer, Extension Master GardenerSM Volunteer.