Lawn spraying is the preferred method for many applications of pesticides including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. Sprayers allow for an even distribution of the active chemicals and when mixed and applied properly, these chemicals are a great tool for ridding your lawn of various pests. Some fertilizers can also be sprayed to give your grass an extra boost, keeping it healthy and green.
While many products are available for do-it-yourselfers and are highly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be safe for home use, education and understanding about how certain chemicals work as well a how they should be used critical. In the state of Georgia, individuals are required to obtain pesticide applicator licenses before purchasing, using or supervising the use of restricted-use pesticides. After completing required training exercises, individuals can obtain a private applicator license. For those who will be charging a fee for applying restricted use or general use pesticides, commercial applicator licenses are required. Both types of licenses are valid for five years from date of issue; if you hire a landscape professional to spray your yard (wise choice), ensure they are properly licensed.
Lawn spraying chemicals is definitely an area in which the belief that if some is good, more is better is opposite of the truth. Mixing chemicals at above recommended concentrations or using more than the minimum effective dose is not only less effective, but can pollute the environment when the excess is carried into storm drains and other waterways via runoff. In addition, if you have created an edible garden containing vegetables, fruits or herbs, you’ll want to be particularly careful not to use any chemicals that may be harmful to those plants or the people who may eat them.
Here in the South, lawn spraying is particularly effective for treating insects such as mole crickets, chinch bugs and cutworms as well as fungal turf diseases such as brown patch, take all patch and grey leaf spot. The vast majority of chemicals that are purchased by do-it-yourselfers and applied by licensed professionals contain the same active ingredients though the pros are able to access more concentrated formulas at lower prices when purchased in bulk.
There are two primary types of pesticides:
Contact pesticides must physically come in contact with the pest either at application or by binding to the plant or soil. Application can show instantaneous results and remain effective for three to five days.
Systemic pesticides are incorporated by treated plants. In the case of systemic insecticides, insects ingest and absorb the chemicals while feeding on the plants. These applications take longer to work but tend to have longer lasting results as well (three weeks or more depending on the application).
The two most commonly used classes of insecticides are Pyrethroids and Neonicotinoids, both of which utilize active ingredients that naturally exist in nature and have been scientifically synthesized for commercial use.
Pyrethroids mimic the insecticidal activity of the natural compound pyrethrum which is found in chrysanthemum plants
Neonicotinoids are synthetic analogues of the natural insecticide nicotine which is found in tobacco plants
Unlike old organophosphate based applications that were general nerve synapse inhibitors which could affect all living creatures, insecticides approved for use today are synapse nerve inhibitors designed to only affect insects with exoskeletons. Since we and our kids and pets do not have exoskeletons, we’re safe but there is potential for unintended collateral damage to other insects such as honey bees and ladybugs which is why application should be highly controlled and only the minimum effective dose administered. As the pros know, there is only one level of dead; mixing higher than recommended concentrations of pesticides will only have a negative impact on the environment, your lawn, and wallet.
Always wear appropriate clothing when applying pesticides. For example, use unlined, chemical- resistant gloves whenever mixing liquid pesticides. Allow treated areas to dry thoroughly before permitting people or pets to walk or play on them. In addition, always check the label for information concerning safe re-entry times as well as what protective clothing should be worn. Minimal protective clothing includes long pants, shirt, shoes and socks.
Check pesticide label directions for special instructions on disposal of empty containers. Never dispose of unused pesticides down storm sewers, toilets or sinks which pollutes the environment and can cause costly cleanups for your community. Take care of pesticide spills immediately. Should any pesticide threaten to enter a storm drain, stream or lake, call your local Environmental Emergency Response Hotline.
Lawn spraying is a great tool in the hands of knowledgeable people who use it responsibly. Unfortunately, well-intentioned homeowners often do more harm than good when not properly trained and thus this particular element of lawn care is best left to professional landscape managers.