Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

To Spray or Not to Spray

by National Gardening Association Editors

Be sure to consider the alternatives before deciding to spray insecticides. Perhaps you can harvest the crop early, or wait for helpful garden predators to restore the balance of power in your garden, or try natural insecticides or home sprays.

Evaluating the Damage

Look carefully at the damage to your crops and try to observe the pest in action if you can. This way you'll be sure the damage is insect caused, and you'll have an easier time correctly identifying the pest.

Ask yourself if the damage is serious enough to warrant spraying for control. Insect activity is normal for any garden, and good gardeners often plant a little extra of every crop, realizing that they will share some of the harvest with various insects that live in or visit the garden.

If you opt for a spray or dust remedy for an insect or disease problem, follow these guidelines for best results.

Follow Directions

Once you select a spray to use, read and follow all directions on the label carefully. Pay special attention to waiting times between spraying and harvesting. The "days to harvest" information may change your pest control strategy. Some insect sprays are long lasting, so be careful about using them on crops near those you want to harvest soon. Keep a logbook on all your pest control activities.

Your spray equipment should always be in good working condition. With some chemicals, it's safer to spray only at certain hours of the day. Sevin, for example, should be used very early in the morning or late in the evening because it is toxic to bees. (Bees don't work early and late in the day.) Dusts are more effective when applied early in the day while the dew is still on the plants.

Chemical Controls

Chemical control for diseases is usually recommended on a season-long basis. Sulfur, or other fungicides, are often contained in the multi-ingredient, all-purpose tomato and potato sprays. These are used every 7 to 10 days through the season, usually starting within a week or two of planting and not just when disease is evident. As with other substances, fungicides must be handled and applied carefully.

Pesticides, used only when necessary and with caution, common sense and consideration for the environment, are available as a last resort. If the insect situation warrants chemical control, choose the weakest chemical remedy to control the insect. Your local extension agent can provide you with regional guides to insect identification and recommended substances for control of most pests.

All pesticides and fungicides are reviewed regularly by the Environmental Protection Agency. For the latest information about products on the market, contact your local extension service.

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