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Prairie Fare: Be Cautious with Chemicals During Gardening Season
By: Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension - 06/04/2019

When a young child gives you a bouquet of dandelions, you may be charmed.

However, those yellow-headed weeds dotting lawns mature and emit puffs of seed. These pesky intruders can ruin a beautiful landscape.

Herbicides are coming out of storage because weeds seem to grow better than many of the desired plants we want in our landscapes.

The other day as I drove home from work, I noticed a homeowner spraying weeds next to a street. He was wearing sandals and shorts. Many adults and children were out walking that day, and some had a dog on a leash.

The day was windy and I could see a thick mist of spray wafting in my direction. Evidently, a lot of the spray was not reaching the desired goal.

I double-checked that my windows were shut. Even with my windows securely closed, I could smell a distinct chemical aroma.

Homeowners are not required to go through pesticide certification training, as agricultural producers are. If you are using any type of chemical in your yard or garden, you are a "pesticide applicator."

We all have responsibilities with pesticides because we do not want to cause harm to humans, pets, livestock, wildlife or the environment.

Pesticides include herbicides to control weeds, insecticides to deter insects, fungicides to prevent the growth of mold and mildew, and disinfectants to prevent the spread of bacteria.

The pesticide applicator I observed while driving home defied several of the recommendations. I'm sure the label on the product he was using would have explained all the precautions.

If you choose not to apply chemicals, you certainly can consider alternatives to pesticides, such as hoeing; hand weeding; excluding the pest with barriers; sanitizing the area; and/or removing food, water or cover for the pest.

This is an excerpt from a guide I wrote with former NDSU Extension pesticide specialist Greg Dahl. The guide was updated by our current specialist, Andrew Thostenson. Please see https://tinyurl.com/NDSUHomeownerPesticides for the entire guide, which has more information about disposal, handling spills and food safety.

- Plan ahead and buy no more pesticide than you need.

- Keep pesticides separate from other items in a shopping cart and make sure they are wrapped in a separate bag at the checkout stand.

- Transport pesticides in the trunk of the car instead of the backseat to avoid contaminating the car interior in case of breakage.

- Read the label carefully. Make sure you have the proper safety and application equipment available and know how to use it.

- Examine the area to be treated and the surrounding area. Does the area have any plants or animals that could be harmed by the pesticide? Don't spray if you cannot guarantee they will not be injured. You are responsible for any damage that could occur.

- Wear all protective clothing and equipment listed on the label. The minimum protection most products require is long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and shoes to avoid direct skin exposure. More toxic materials may require waterproof coveralls, chemical-resistant gloves, safety glasses, goggles, etc.

- Use pesticides only on plants or sites designated on the label.

- Calibrate the sprayer or applicator to apply the correct amount.

- Mix or dilute the pesticide in well-ventilated areas to avoid inhaling fumes. Work outdoors if possible. Use protective gloves and/or masks when required by the label instructions.

- Don't spray on a windy day (above 10 miles per hour or above label limits) because the spray could drift on you or into a neighbor's yard.

- Do not eat, drink or smoke when using pesticides because traces of the chemicals may be transferred from hand to mouth.

- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling pesticides and before eating or using the bathroom.

- Avoid wearing soft contact lenses when dealing with pesticides. Soft contact lenses may absorb vapors from the air and hold them against your eyes.

- Always avoid unnecessary exposure to pesticides. Be especially careful to keep children, pregnant women, sensitive individuals and pets away from areas where pesticides are being or have just been applied.

- Consider hiring a professional pesticide applicator. Be sure the applicator is certified and has good references.

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