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Blackwelder: Read presticide labels

Insects, weeds and other myriad garden pests will be out in force with warm weather fast approaching.
Pesticide usage often receives a negative connotation, but when used correctly, pesticides effectively eliminate pests without harm to people or the environment.
Unfortunately pesticide misuse or misunderstanding is still a common problem. Below are a few tips that may prevent pesticide misuse and provide a safe environment.
• Know the pest. Home gardeners with pests often do not know what type of pest is causing the problem. Insects often differ from mites, spiders and other pests. Foliar diseases on some vegetables could stem from not only a fungus, but bacteria or virus. Some pesticides are very specific in what they will control. What works well to control one insect or disease pest does not necessarily mean it will effectively control another. During unusual weather, deformities in plants may occur, mimicking a disease or insect damage. Know the pest before applying a pesticide.
• Can you live with some pest damage? Is it really worth spraying an entire vegetable garden or lawn for a few weeds?
Hand picking may be a valid alternative for removal of bagworms on juniper, especially if there is a small population infesting the plants. Tomatoes with foliar diseases at the end of the season may not need to be sprayed for the final harvest. Foliar leaf spots on shade trees, such as anthracnose, are disorders on maple that rarely if ever kills the trees.
• Choose the least toxic pesticide to control the insect or other pests. If using a pesticide is the only practical method of controlling the pest, be sure to use the least toxic. Consult the label or contact the Extension Office to determine which is least toxic.
• Organic pesticides are also toxic. Many home gardeners feel that if the pesticide is organic it must be safe. Ironically, some of the most dangerous pesticides are organic. Never assume organic pesticides are safe. All pesticides, both chemical and organic, are designed to kill.
• Read the label and follow instructions. Some gardeners use “just a capful” to control a pest. Read and follow recommendations to the letter. Pesticides rates vary depending on the type of pest to be controlled. Never use more than the recommended rates. The label is the final word on how to use the pesticide. There will be a phone number on the label with more detailed instructions or emergency information concerning the pesticide.
Contact the Cooperative Extension Service should you have questions concerning the use of pesticides around the home or garden.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities on Facebook or www.rowanextension.com or call 704-216-8970.

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