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Schmidt: Pesticide safety for gardeners and homeowners

By Staff | May 30, 2014

Spring seems to have finally sprung! Many Pierce County homeowners have mowed their lawns for the first time and have begun planting the more cold tolerant garden items. As the growing season progresses, the potential that gardeners and/or homeowners will need or want to use a pesticide on their lawn or garden increases. As we move into the growing season I would like to remind Pierce County homeowners and gardeners of some general pesticide handling and safety tips.

First let’s define what a pesticide is. A pesticide is a substance that is used to help control pests that have the potential to be destructive. Pests can come in a variety of forms such as rodents, insects, weeds, plant disease organisms (i.e. fungi), and even germs. Bet you never thought your antibacterial soap could technically be considered a “pesticide”?! Joking aside most pesticides are designed to control pests by killing them. Whether you are using an insecticide, herbicide, fungicide, or rodenticide in your home or garden, the intent of application is to kill something don’t let it be you.

Just because you can buy a pesticide at your local home and garden store and apply it yourself does not mean that it comes without risks. Each and every pesticide applicator is responsible for preventing harm from occurring to non-intended target species such as humans, pets, wildlife, or the environment.

Here are some tips to follow this growing season if you should find yourself considering the application of a pesticide in your home, garden, or landscape:

1. Identify the problem and the pest. Decide if controlling it is necessary. Decide if there are other control options that may be used as an alternative to applying pesticide.

2. Choose the lowest toxicity pesticide that can be used legally on the target area and that will control the pest safely and effectively.

3. ALWAYS READ and FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS. The label will tell you what type of pests it will control and what the active ingredient is. It will tell you whether the product can be applied to edible plants and how long you must wait after application before you eat the fruit or vegetable. It will also tell you what safety precautions you need to take such as protective clothing or equipment you will need to wear when handling the pesticide. It is NEVER acceptable to apply ANY pesticide while wearing flip flops and shorts!

4. Don’t spray on a windy day because the spray could drift on you or into a neighbor’s yard.

5. Keep clothing used during pesticide application separate from family laundry. Clothing used to apply pesticide should be laundered separately from family laundry. Wash using hot water and a heavy duty detergent followed by two rinse cycles. Following laundering, clean the washing machine after use by running it without clothing through a normal wash cycle. Avoid drying laundered pesticide application clothing in a dryer as this can contaminate the dryer if any pesticide residue remains. Line-dry clothing the sun’s rays will also help to denature any remaining pesticide residue.

6. Dispose of unused pesticides and pesticide containers correctly. Never put unused pesticides in the garbage. Triple rinse empty pesticide containers by filling one-quarter full of water, covering tightly and shaking. The rinse water should be applied on the original target area.

For further information you may contact the Pierce County NDSU Extension office at 776-6234 ext. 5 or via email at yolanda.schmidt@ndsu.edu.

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