Some gardeners are unafraid of reaching for chemicals and some will do so only as a last resort. Regardless of your comfort level when you purchase chemicals for use in your garden you enter into an implied legal contract with the manufacture to follow their instructions.
Identify and Decide: Before resorting to chemicals, it’s essential to correctly identify the problem. Online resources or your county Extension office can help. Once the problem is identified, decide if you can live with it or if you can change your gardening habits. For example, overhead watering contributes to black spot in roses—have you been watering roses from overhead rather than at the roots? A change in your behavior may solve the problem. No need for chemicals.
Select: If you decide to go shopping for garden chemicals start by reading the label and instructions for the product’s use. Following the instructions will produce the best results and comply with an implicit agreement to do so that you have agreed to by purchasing the chemical. It’s up to you to check that this particular chemical can handle your problem for use on your plants.
Use: If the chemical is in a concentrated form, do not deviate from the mixing instructions. Manufactures have rigorously tested their products —you do not know more about them than they do. Follow instructions for protective clothing, mixture and storage.
Mix only the amount you will need and never pour unused chemicals on the ground. Contact your county Extension office for information on disposing of unused chemicals.
Some chemicals require spraying. Select an appropriate sprayer and you may need to dedicate it to spraying only one chemical. Do not spray on a windy day to avoid a contaminating surrounding areas.
Follow instructions about when to spray to avoid harming pollinating birds and insects. Chemicals with a pollinator protection icon (looks like a bee inside of a diamond) should not be sprayed on a plant when it is in bloom. Here you have the option of cutting the plant back—what is sometimes referred to as “cut a bouquet and then spray”—allowing you to spray or using a systemic product.
The dirty little secret with instructions on the container is that the print is small, we’re usually in a hurry to find a solution, and it makes for dull—but necessary—reading. Consequently, not everyone follows the directions. The simple truth is that if you are going to get your money’s worth from the chemical, if you are going to bring the problem under control, and if you are going to apply the chemical in a safe manner, you must read and follow the instructions.