Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
November, 2010
Regional Report

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Be responsible with pesticide use or this giant mutant may appear in your backyard!

Integrated Pest Management Part 6: Use Pesticides Responsibly

My previous report covered the final leg of Integrated Pest Management strategies, using chemical controls. Remember that IPM gives you the option to do nothing, so don't automatically reach for a spray can every time an unfamiliar bug passes by!

Overuse of synthetic pesticides has contributed to an array of resistant species that are no longer effected by some chemicals. A few strong and resistant individuals survive an application to reproduce, passing their genetic make-up to the next generation. It is estimated that over 200 species are now resistant to pesticides. If you choose to use pesticides, it is essential to select the appropriate pesticide for each situation, use it safely, and dispose of any remainder properly.

Choose a "target-specific" product that acts against just one or a limited number of species. Some pesticides are broad-spectrum, meaning they kill a wide range of species. Avoid broad-spectrum products that can eliminate beneficial biological controls as well as pests. Spraying any insecticide indiscriminately will likely do more harm than good if the product is not formulated for that pest. If natural predators are eliminated but the pest survives, its population increases unchecked, a process called resurgence.

Read the product's label. Take a magnifying glass with you to scrutinize that 6 point type! Labels should list the specific pest you want to manage and be safe for the type of plant it will be applied to. Some pesticides should not be used on food crops. The label will describe benefits and hazards of using the product.

Wear protective clothing, including gloves, long sleeves and pants, eye protection, and a dust mask. Use thick rubber gloves, not cotton or leather, which can absorb the pesticide and allow it next to the skin.

Follow dilution rates exactly. These amounts have been determined after research to inhibit the pest, avoid plant injury, and control excess residue from contaminating the surroundings. Use measuring utensils rather than "eyeballing" the amounts.

Apply as directed. The pesticide can not distinguish between good and bad plants. Sloppy herbicide application can result in drift to desirable plants. Watch the weather and avoid spraying if winds are more than 10 mph. Some products must be applied during cool temperatures or they will volatilize.

Spot-treat afflicted plants, rather than spraying entire sections.

If possible, purchase only enough product for a specific application or one season. Share with neighbors experiencing the same pest problem.

Never pour unused product on the ground or down the drain. Take it to a hazardous waste disposal site. Call your city sanitation department for information on locations.

That concludes the series on Integrated Pest Management. I hope these brief explanations help you to grow an earth-friendly garden for the benefit of your family, community and the planet!

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