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GARDENING : Use Pesticides Only As Last Resort

October 20, 1990|From Reader's Digest

There are times when you must use pesticides to save a favorite plant or rid your home and yard of dangerous or annoying pests. But remember, pesticides are poisons. And, as with any poison, they should be used with extreme care. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

Caution: Before using a pesticide, read the label carefully and study all warnings. Make sure you understand the list of active ingredients--their uses and dangers. Follow directions scrupulously.


Use a pesticide only if you can't control a pest in some other way. If possible, select an agent designed to attack the specific pest troubling you. General purpose pesticides may poison bees and other beneficial insects as well as earthworms, fish, birds, pets and people.

When applying pesticides indoors, a pump-operated spray can is usually better than a pressurized one because it releases less poison into the air. To avoid the lingering odor of commercial sprays, carefully mix the ingredients yourself in water (the usual oil base intensifies the smell) and apply the mixture with a trigger sprayer. When using a fogger to fumigate a large area, make sure the target area is sealed off from adjoining areas.

Check stored pesticides before use: Lumps are signs of deterioration in dusts and powders. A dilutive preparation should blend quickly and easily with water. Emulsifiable concentrates should turn milky when mixed with water. Dormant oil sprays should be uniform without traces of sludge at the bottom of the container.

Mix pesticides in a well-ventilated area.

Put all food away, cover utensils and remove pets and their dishes before spraying indoors.

Wash table- and countertops after spraying.

Keep pesticides in original containers that are tightly closed and clearly labeled and store them in a locked, well-ventilated area, away from heat and direct sunlight.

Outdoors, spray pesticides on calm days after warning neighbors of your plans. Wear a waterproof hat and coat, face mask and rubber gloves, especially when spraying a large area. Then leave the area until the spray is dry and the odor has passed.

Exhaust all gas from pressurized cans and wrap empty containers in thick layers of newspapers before disposing of them.

Clean spraying equipment by rinsing it with at least three changes of water.


Don't use a high-pressure paint gun for pesticides.

Don't use pesticides near children or pets or leave them, their containers or the equipment used to apply pesticides, where children or pets can get at them.

Don't smoke, drink or chew gum while using pesticides or inhale sprays, dusts or vapors.

Don't store pesticides near food or use kitchen utensils to measure, mix or contain a pesticide.

Don't dump pesticides or their containers in places where they could endanger fish or wildlife or contaminate water.

Don't re-enter a treated room for at least half an hour after it has been sprayed.


In case of a spill, quickly remove spattered clothing and flush exposed skin with water. Wearing rubber gloves, use sand or sawdust to absorb as much liquid pesticide as possible, then scoop it into a metal container.

Outdoors, flush the spill area with plenty of water. Inside, increase ventilation to a maximum.

If a child or anyone else consumes some pesticide, call a poison control center immediately.

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