Landscape Logic column: Pesticide product labels are info-rich

Yellow dandelion flowers on a green field
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If you count carbs, fat, sodium content or total calories, then you’ve read the label on everything you bring home from the grocery store.

Are you equally as diligent when it comes to labels on lawn and landscape products? They line the shelves in the hardware store, the garden center and some are even in the grocery store. These products have labels, too, and they’re just as important to read and understand as the ones on the soup can. Here’s why.

‘Measure twice, cut once’

Whether you’re zapping dandelions or controlling a serious pest, the product you use needs to be the right one for the job as well as applied correctly and safely. Some products have caution statements to protect the safety of the person who applies them as well as pollinators, edibles and other plants nearby. If you spray some products on dandelions in the lawn, then they will kill only the dandelion and leave the grass in tact. Other products, however, will not only zap the dandelion, but also the surrounding lawn. Labels — and knowledgeable pros — can help you sort this out.

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Apply the old carpenter’s adage to measure twice and cut once to the vast array of lawn and garden products. Read carefully at least twice and apply once. If you need to treat again, follow the label guidelines. More is not necessarily better, and precautions are there for a reason.

Also, follow safety measures when using products labeled “natural” that we tend to think of as non-toxic. That’s not necessarily so. Just as many plants are as poisonous as they are beautiful, “natural” products can be as harmful as they seem to be ecological. Even natural products have the potential to cause harm if they are not properly handled.

While many plants have developed toxins to protect themselves from pests, a product made from plant derived toxins can be toxic to humans because the toxins are sold in concentrations much higher than found in plants naturally. All chemicals, including natural ones, have the potential to cause harm if they are not properly handled.

DIY – or hire a pro?

If you suspect an insect or disease problem is threatening your yard, it’s often smarter in the long run to consult a pro. Industry professionals are trained to follow Integrated Pest Management strategies that will determine if and when a treatment is needed — and whether the best solution is something as simple as pruning or a change in water management practices. Sometimes introducing a predator insect can solve a problem. Other problems need a treatment akin to an antibiotic or chemo for humans. That’s when a pesticide may be necessary because the condition warrants it to save the plants.

When you consult with a professional, you tap into their scientific training and horticultural expertise. And if they need to apply a pesticide, they are the pros who are licensed by the State of Colorado to do the work. They know the importance of following label instructions and observing safety precautions because they, themselves, are the front-line applicators.

If you read labels because you need to follow a low-sodium diet, then apply the same strategy to lawn and garden products. Health is health whether it’s about people or landscapes. We are, after all, participants in the same ecosystem.

Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.

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