Pesticides are an effective tool for combating numerous problems encountered in the home landscape and garden. When used properly they can save time and labor. Used improperly, however, pesticides can cause damage to plants, people and the environment. It is very important to read and understand the label on any pesticide container. In fact, the label is the law. Keep in mind that all pesticides are potentially poisonous and that improper application or use can be dangerous.
There are several categories of pesticides, and numerous products, available for use in the home garden. Herbicides can be used to control weeds. Some products will kill all vegetation and should be used only where no desirable plants reside. There are a small number of these products that sterilize the soil and prevent growth of any plants for several years. Products that sterilize the soil may also damage nearby trees and shrubs if the roots grow into or are already located in the treated area. Be sure you understand the nature and limitations of any compound applied. Some herbicides can kill seeds as they germinate but do not affect growing plants that are already growing. These can be used to control weeds around shrubs, trees or emerged garden plants. Other herbicides kill only certain types of plants, such as grasses. These can be used to control grass weeds in broadleaf garden plots, or their opposite counterparts can be used to control broadleaf weeds, such as dandelion, in lawns. In a garden, herbicides can make weed management easier, but cannot completely replace hand weeding.
The intended use of insecticides is to kill destructive insects and are often very important for managing garden pests. However, because these compounds are designed to kill animal pests, they are often the most toxic and damaging to the environment of all classes of pesticides. Insecticides can also kill beneficial insects so it is again important to read the label to avoid killing insects that help you out in the war against damaging insects. Insecticides should be used only when needed and then only when using all appropriate precautions.
Fungicides and bactericides are used to control plant diseases and can save your lawn, garden, and landscape plants from disease when applied in a timely manner. For many diseases, fungicides must be applied to the target plants before the disease appears. Consequently, they are often used in a preventative fashion.
For further information on pesticides, please refer to the following links:
For detailed general information on controlling pests in gardens, see chapters 9 – 14 in the Idaho Master Gardener’s Handbook.
For general instruction on reading labels and using pesticides in the home garden, see the following informative University of Idaho publication: Pesticides for the Home Garden and How to Use Them
See the EPA document Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety for a comprehensive treatment of pesticide selection, management, and safety.
View a comprehensive database of pesticide products for home use from the Household Products site.
Purdue University has published A Strategy for Pest Control in Home Gardens outlining non-pesticide strategies for pest control.
For information on storing and disposing of pesticides, follow this link to an informative University of Idaho publication, Idaho Homeowner’s Commonsense Guide to Pesticides.