This past week has seen an abundance of blooms on our trees and shrubs. Most of these are two to three weeks behind their normal bloom time.
But the warm weather has finally brought out the blooms and gardeners. And the first thing that they are seeing is all of the weeds that are present. So the calls are coming in on how to kill these weeds.
My previous two columns were on weed control.
Weeds are controlled with herbicides, which are considered pesticides. To safely use pesticides, follow the instructions on the label. Reading the label should be the first step any gardener takes when using a pesticide.
When we have a pest problem, the best way to handle them might not be a pesticide. Sometimes, we can use cultural practices or traps or let natural enemies of the pest take care of the problem. However, sometimes we have to use pesticides to control the problem.
When this occurs, we need to have a correct identification of the pest, know the best time to treat the pest, and know the best product to use to treat the pest.
Sometimes an organic pesticide will work best on the pest problem. Those using organic pesticides need to read the label just as you would a chemical pesticide.
The label on a pesticide will provide all the information about the product being used. The first part of the label will give the brand name of the product, such as Roundup. Also on the front of the product will be the chemical name, such as glyphosate for Roundup.
The chemical name is very important, because the same pesticide might be sold by many different companies under different brand names. I have had people bring in a list of the pesticides that they have at home to see which one would work on the pest they are trying to control, and then find that they have the same chemical under different brand names.
Also on the label, there are signal words that indicate the potential hazard of the product to humans. Pesticides will have one of three signal words on the label. The first is "danger." This label will also have a skull and crossbones on it. This is the most toxic of the pesticides, and a taste to a teaspoon could kill an adult human.
The second signal word is "warning." This product is moderately toxic, and a teaspoon to two tablespoons could kill an adult human. The last signal word is "caution." This product has low toxicity, and it would take an ounce to a pint of this product to kill an adult human.
The most important part of the label is the "Directions for Use" section. This section tells what pests this product is registered to control, sites on which this product can be used, in what form the product is applied, how much of the product should be used, and when and where the product should be applied.
The label should be read very carefully, because the same chemical can be under different brand names, with one labeled for indoor use and the other labeled for outdoor use. If it is a product that can be used on vegetables, the label will say how soon after use the vegetables can be harvested.
Someone called me one day to say that they had used a pesticide on their green beans. The pesticide was recommended to control a certain insect. They used the insecticide and then read the label.
The label said the green beans shouldn't be harvested for 21 days after using this product. Because the green beans would be ready to pick in a couple of days, they lost most of that year's crop by not reading the label first.
The amount of pesticide to use is listed on the label. I cringe every time I hear someone say that they doubled the amount listed. Their reasoning is that if a little does good, then a lot will do much better. In the case of pesticides, this is not the case.
The companies who are marketing these chemicals have tested them, and the listed rate is the one that works. Also, the rate listed is the one that breaks down and causes the least amount of harm to the environment. If the rate is doubled, the pesticide stays around longer and can have the potential to do more harm to the environment.
The safe use of pesticides requires reading the label and following all the instructions.
Charles Phillips is a retired Columbia County Extension Service agent and operates Hort Consulting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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