Any lawn or garden is likely to suffer from pest infestation at one time or another. Insects, diseases, and weeds can be troublesome and can potentially cause harm or even death of the plants.

Homeowners frequently purchase and use pesticides to control the pests. However, all of them are poisons designed to kill or adversely impact living organisms. If the pesticides are used according to label directions, they will be more likely to control the targeted pest. Misusing them can cause harm to the user, other people, and the environment. 

All of the necessary directions and information on the correct use of the pesticides are listed on the label, and the law requires all of them be followed. The label gives the names and percentages of the active ingredients, the type of plant material or areas where the pesticide can be applied, and the specific pests controlled. It also provides all of the information on how to apply the chemical and all the necessary safety precautions. It will also tell when the pesticide should not be applied due to environmental conditions or other factors. For example, some pesticides for lawns should not be applied when the temperature is over 80 degrees. It can damage the grass. You can only use the pesticide on plant material and in places listed on the label. For example, if it is labeled for use on turfgrass, it cannot be used on fruits and vegetable plants. If the product is labeled to control insect pests outdoors, then you cannot use it indoors. 

Correct identification of the pest is necessary prior to applying any pesticides. For example, if you observe a white substance on your crape myrtles during the summer, the plant has powdery mildew, a fungal disease. Applying an insecticide for control will not be effective since the cause of the malady is a fungus and not an insect. Also, when using herbicides (chemical weed killers), remember some are nonselective such as Round-Up, meaning they will kill any plant material they are sprayed on. Others are selective. They will target certain types of weeds but not harm other plant material. An example is an herbicide labeled to control broadleaf weeds in lawns. It will kill broadleaf weeds, such as clover and chickweed, but will not harm the turfgrasses that are listed on the label.

When applying pesticides, you should wear protective chemical resistant gloves and other protection listed on the label. Do not apply pesticides on windy days. Be careful about the drifting of pesticides, especially with herbicides, since the chemical drift can significantly harm or kill non-target plants. Do not eat, drink, or smoke when applying pesticides, and thoroughly wash your hands after each use. Use caution to keep pesticides out of bodies of water such as lakes, streams, and rivers. Never dump chemicals down drains or storm sewers. Make sure you properly dispose of the pesticide and its container as per label directions. Always store them in a safe, secure location protected from weather extremes, moisture, damage, and out of the reach of children. 

Remember, the pesticides are designed to kill living organisms. The most important part of using them is following all label directions and safety precautions. Thoroughly read and understand the product label before you select, buy and apply it. By doing so, the risk of harm to people and the environment is lessened, and the chances of controlling the targeted pest are increased.

Timothy Daly, is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with Gwinnett County. He can be contacted at 678-377-4010 or