Smart Use for Fall Pesticides

By John Voket, RISMedia Consumer Confidant During the fall, I know that homeowners and green industry professionals alike take steps to prepare landscapes for the winter. Leaves are swept away for composting or disposal, perennials and shrubs are pruned, hedges are trimmed, and pesticides are applied in anticipation of next year’s growing season. For professional arborists and landscapers, fall and early winter are an effective time to use pesticides, a broad term that includes products that kill insect pests and also kill weeds. Just remember to use a light touch, if you even have to use pesticides at all. Many homeowners may be surprised to learn that raking diseased tree leaves can replace fall pesticide applications in some cases. Tchukki Andersen, staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA.org) says homeowners may be able to solve landscape problems without pesticides by choosing non-chemical alternatives, such as sanitation procedures and selecting shrubs and ornamental trees that are less susceptible to diseases and insects. For homeowners who do decide to use pesticides, the TCIA offers these suggestions:
  • Identify the pest first. There is no use in applying a pesticide that won’t address your pest problem.
  • Don’t be tempted to use agricultural chemicals. They aren’t designed for use by homeowners. A small miscalculation in the mixing of a small batch could result in drastic overdosing.
  • Buy the least toxic application. Most chemicals available to homeowners use the signal words “caution,” “warning” or “danger” on their labels. Try to avoid those with the “warning” and “danger” labels, as they are more hazardous.
  • Never mix herbicides with other kinds of pesticides, and never use the same equipment to spray herbicides and other pesticides. You could unintentionally kill the plants you are trying to protect.
  • Don’t mix or store pesticides in food containers, and don’t measure pesticides with the measuring cups and spoons you use in the kitchen. Always store pesticides in the original container, with the label intact.
  • The best choice may be to consult a professional who can diagnose pest problems and recommend chemical or non-chemical alternatives, Andersen advises. A beautiful lawn, shrub or tree isn’t worth the trade-off if pesticides are not being used properly.
In our next segment, we’ll take a look at herbicides.
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