How To Read a Pesticide Label

Find the critical pesticide information you need, when you need it.
Related To:
How do I get rid of squash bugs (0)

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Squash bugs are difficult to kill and cause havoc in gardens.

Squash bugs are difficult to kill and cause havoc in gardens.

Protecting the Garden

Pesticides are sometimes a necessity of gardening. When dealing with sudden explosions of pest populations, there are times when you have to go to the plant pharmacy (aka garden center) and pick up some relief for the garden to help it get back to good health. As with human medications, these chemicals should always be handled with care. You should always read the label prior to purchasing and applying a new treatment for your garden, but what are you looking for?

Prior to the Purchase

Before making a purchase, be sure the product you’ve selected treats the problem you are dealing with. If your garden is plagued with fungus, you need a fungicide, which may be called “disease control.” Insect problems require insecticide, mite problems miticide. But that is just the start. The label lists the specific fungi, insects or mites that are killed by the product. Be sure that your target species is listed on the label.

Next, ensure that the product is safe to use on the plants you intend to spray. There may be a list of plants that should not be sprayed, or a list of “tolerant” plants that may be sprayed with the product.

Finally, before purchasing the product you should understand how the product is to be applied. For instance, if you purchase a concentrated product, you will need to measure the amount of chemical you are adding to water. You may need to purchase a measuring cup, a sprayer, rubber gloves or other protective equipment. Be sure to find the “Precautionary Statement” section and read it carefully to understand the potential hazards related to using the product, and how to avoid them.

Before Using the Product

It can be helpful to reread certain parts of the label immediately before using the product. One area that is often overlooked is the “First Aid” section. When chemicals are dispersed in the air, they may accidentally drift with the wind into the eyes, nose or mouth of the user or passersby. Knowing what to do beforehand can significantly reduce injury in the event of this type of mishap.

Always review the application rate before applying. More is not better. The dilution rates and coverage areas listed in the “Directions For Use” portion of the label are given to be effective without causing collateral damage. Also in this part of the label look for the temperature range within which the product may be applied and other environmental conditions that should or should not be present. High or low temperatures and rain or lack of rain may severely impact the way the chemical works. In instances where the problem is persistent, a few issues may come into play.

Also in the “Directions For Use” section, check how often the chemical may be applied; it may be a few days or several weeks. Sometimes there is a limit to the number of applications within a growing season as well. For edibles like vegetable gardens, fruit and nut trees, there is a “days to harvest” period that must be followed with regard to the final application. Some chemicals may be used up to the day of harvest, others may be limited to use several weeks before the anticipated harvest date. All of these issues may be sorted out by reading the label.

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