Here are some simple rules for home gardeners to follow when spraying their garden to effectively control pests and save time, money, and chemicals.
Follow the directions on the back of the bottle: Using more of a chemical does not necessarily mean it will be more effective. Overuse of chemicals can damage the plants and the environment and waste your money. Always follow the recommended dosage and application instructions provided by the manufacturer.
Use sprays suitable for the specific plants: Make sure the plant you are spraying is listed on the product label. Some sprays may not be safe for edible plants, and if the product is labeled as "ornamental," it means it is not intended for plants for human or pet consumption.
Consider the pest's life cycle: Some pests may require multiple applications of a spray to effectively control them. Follow the recommended spray schedule on the product label, as it may be necessary to target different stages of the pest's life cycle to achieve complete control.
Understand systemic sprays: Systemic sprays are designed to travel throughout the plant and provide control even beyond the sprayed area. If using a systemic spray, make sure the product specifically mentions it is systemic. Other sprays may only provide contact control and need to directly hit the pest to be effective.
Alternate spray chemicals: Pests can develop resistance to certain chemicals over time. To avoid this, rotate between different sprays with different active ingredients to effectively manage pests and prevent resistance from developing. E.g. to organically control aphids on vegetables, alternate sprays between Searles Ecofend Vegetable & Garden Spray and Searles Bug Beater.
Pay attention to the active ingredient: The active ingredient is the chemical compound that actually targets the pest or disease. It is listed on the product label and is often in bold writing. Using the same active ingredient from different companies may not provide effective rotation, so choose sprays with different active ingredients.
Use chemicals within their shelf life: If using concentrated chemicals that need to be mixed with water, use them within 24 hours of mixing as the potency may decrease over time. Ready-to-use (RTU) sprays are made with demineralized and deionized water, which is neutral and does not affect the active ingredients and so have a longer shelf life than those mixed at home. Before using any chemical, check its use-by-date stamped on the bottle. Out of date chemical may reduce its effectiveness.
Do not mix different chemicals together: Mixing different chemicals in the same spray unit can cause unknown reactions and may result in ineffective control or damage to plants. If you need multiple types of sprays, look for pre-mixed products that have been tested in a laboratory for compatibility. One product that will increase a chemical's effectiveness when added, is Searles Spredmax. This product is designed to be added to herbicides, insecticides and pesticides to increase spray coverage and wetting of the targeted area.
Use separate spray units: Avoid cross-contamination of chemicals by using separate spray units for different types of sprays, such as herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and miticides. Label each unit accordingly to prevent accidental mixing and potential damage to plants.
Be specific in targeting pests: Different types of sprays are designed to target specific pests or diseases. Make sure you are using the appropriate spray for the specific pest you are trying to control, and apply it as directed on the product label for the best results.
By following these simple rules, home gardeners can effectively control pests in their garden, save time, money, and chemicals, and promote a healthy and thriving garden. Always read and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer on the product label for safe and effective use of garden sprays. Note that if spraying edible plants that have been listed on the bottle it will state a “With holding period” that is the time from spraying to harvesting. Do not pick the crop till this period has elapsed.