Home & Garden

You Get What You Pay For

Among the 30 most used lawn and garden pesticides, 19 are carcinogens, 16 are hazardous to birds, 24 are toxic to fish and aquatic organisms and 11 are deadly to honey bees.

Read the entire label on a pesticide container and you find that there are a number of considerations involved in selecting and applying the right product for your situation. The instructions on the product label are the law. Pesticides are poisons; they are to be taken seriously.

Pesticides don’t necessarily remain where they are applied. They should not be applied on a windy day because spray and dust drift and will likely land on unintended plants in your yard and your neighbor’s.

Certain chemicals carry a warning that they should not be used near water because they are toxic to fish and other invertebrates. They are more likely to move through the soil and run off with groundwater into ponds and waterways. The result can be detrimental to people, pets and the environment.

If you use a commercial maintenance company that offers chemical applications make sure that that the company has not only a business license but also a commercial pesticide license. A contractor licensed to apply chemicals must also carry a certain amount of insurance to protect his clients.

The term pesticides includes insecticides, fungicides, algaecides, rodenticides and other chemicals that are part of a special use category called restricted use products. These chemicals must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency before they can be used in our homes and gardens.

In order to get a commercial pesticide license to buy restricted use products and apply any pesticide, landscape applicators must take classes, pass state exams and carry a specified amount of insurance.

Think again before you use a lawn maintenance service that offers you something for nothing. The old warning applies that a consumer should be wary of something that seems too good to be true because it probably is.

For example, a local contractor ran an ad this spring to compete with the other mow and blow services. The difference between him and the others, he tells us, is that in addition to basic edge, mow and blow maintenance his service includes seasonal weed control, all fertilizer, weed control in beds and hardscape, trimming as needed and spot spray and broadcast treatment of turf weeds. Clients pay nothing extra for these services. He informs us that he is a full service irrigation company, too. He includes in his ad that he uses all PROFESSIONAL (his emphasis) grade equipment. He tells you to give him a call for a FREE (his emphasis) property assessment.

A knowledgeable neighbor brought this ad to my attention. She cited a couple of homeowners in our neighborhood who found his prices low and were consequently using his service. She had already smartly checked out his truck when she saw it on the street, but did not see a licensed applicator decal displayed on the vehicle. The decal indicates that the applicator has been trained, tested and stays up to date through continuing education during the year. You can google the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation website to check on any company that applies pesticides.

My neighbor’s question to me was how could he provide chemical products and services for the cost of a mow and blow.

My question was why “PROFESSIONAL grade equipment” superseded any mention of any mention of a license for chemical application.

State law requires that anyone who transports chemicals to use on a paying job on another person’s property or a government agency that is applying pesticides, including mosquito spraying, must obtain and display decals on the front of his vehicle. It’s the law. Make sure a contractor displays the decal on his vehicle before you allow him to apply pesticides on your property.

Reach Debbie Menchek, a Clemson Master Gardener, at dmgha3@aol.com.