The Garden Patch: Rule No. 1 – Read the product label

031614-garden-toolsThe information this week comes from a publication called “Kansas Green Earth Guide” published by K-State and the first part is from a section of that publication entitled “Safety of Some Common Lawn and Garden Products”. Whether we realize it or not, these are products we frequently use in the garden in the spring and summer. It pays in many ways to have a working knowledge of these products – so – here goes…

(Products are listed by active ingredient. Read the product label to find that ingredient).

Bacillus thuringiensis (certain caterpillars and worms) – Modified from a naturally occurring disease of certain caterpillars. Does not affect humans, other mammals, birds, fish or bees. Inactivated by sunlight shortly after application. Not a threat to water supplies. Also referred to as “BT”.

Paraffinic oil (soft bodied insects) – A purified, natural oil. Works only on soft-bodied insects. Must contact the insects to be effective. No harmful effects to humans, other mammals, birds, fish or bees. Poses no threat to water supplies.

Potassium salts of fatty acids (soft-bodied insects) – A soap-like product. Works only on soft bodied insects. Must contact the insects to be effective. No harmful effects to humans, other mammals, birds, fish or bees. Poses no threat to water supplies.

Pyrethrins (general insect control) – Natural insecticide produced by certain chrysanthemum species. Low toxicity to humans, although infants are more susceptible. Avoid inhaling vapors. Slightly toxic to birds. Toxic to fish and bees. Breaks down rapidly and inactivated by sunlight and air.

Rotenone (general insect control) – Natural insecticide found in certain members of the pea family. Some product formulations have low toxicity to humans and carry the signal word CAUTION. Some concentrated formulations have high toxicity and carry the word DANGER. Rotenone products for home use are usually sold in low concentrations. Slightly toxic to birds. Highly toxic to fish. Very low toxicity to bees. Breaks down rapidly.

Sabidilla alkaloids (caterpillars, grasshoppers and other insects) – Organic compound derived from members of the lily family. Low toxicity to humans and other mammals. Safe to wildlife. Highly toxic to honeybees. Rapid breakdown.

There you have it, the six most common chemicals found in your garden products. If you have other questions, contact your Extension office. Better safe than sorry!

Now let’s talk about what we don’t want to talk about … cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined the potential for some of these products to cause cancer. There are five categories:

Group A: Human carcinogen. Sufficient evidence from epidemiologic studies to support a casual association between the agents and cancer.

Group B: Probable human carcinogen. (Group B has two subgroups.)

  • B1: Sufficient animal epidemiologic evidence, but limited human evidence.
  • B2: Sufficient animal evidence, but inadequate or no human epidemiologic evidence.

Group C: Possible human carcinogen. Limited evidence of carcinogenicity in animals in the absence of human data.

Group D: Not classified as to human carcinogenicity. Inadequate or no human and animal data for carcinogenicity.

Group E: No evidence of carcinogenicity for humans. No evidence of carcinogenicity in at least two adequate animal tests in different species or in both adequate and epidemiological and animal studies. This classification is based on available evidence and does not mean that the agent will not be a carcinogen under any circumstances.

There you have it, study it carefully – you never know when I’ll pop-quiz you on spelling! What it really means is – read the label carefully and follow its instructions to the letter!

And now …

Storing chemicals safely

Store lawn and garden chemical products in a secure location that is out of reach of children (kind of like hiding Christmas presents) and pets. It’s best to keep these products locked in a well-ventilated storage area where temperatures stay above freezing and below 90 degrees. NEVER store these products with or near food, animal feed or medical supplies.

OK – a little Q and A:

Q: How soon can I let my family and pets into the yard after applying a liquid chemical?

A: Pets and children can come in contact with treated surfaces after the surfaces dry. Check the label to see if there are any specific instructions.

Q: Which insecticides are safest to birds?

A: Among the synthetic insecticides, carbaryl, methoxyclor, permethrin, resmethrin and rotenone products have the lowest toxicity when ingested. All of the natural insecticides are safe for birds.

Q: Do I need to take any special precautions when applying a chemical?

A: ALWAYS read and follow the label directions. Do not eat, drink or smoke when applying pesticides. Do not allow pesticides to contaminate your food, water, dishes or utensils. NEVER use more of a pesticide than is stated on the label, even if your pest problem is unusually bad. Finally, wash any contaminated clothing separate from other laundry.

You’ve now read it, remembered it, practiced it and live with it – you are an expert! (The real daffynition of an “expert” is someone more than 50 miles from home giving a talk on some subject that no one in the audience has ever heard of!)

We’re done for this week – hope you and yours are happy and well and that you’re getting your garden ready to go! Till next week!


stevehallerSteve Haller, of Osage City, a K-State Research and Extension Master Gardener, writes The Garden Patch, featuring gardening ideas and tips for gardeners in northeast Kansas. In his words: “I am not a horticulturist. By education I am an economist. By experience, I am a marketing guru from a local to an international scale. Gardening was taught to me by my grandfather and my Mom, and I’ve been doing it since World War II was going on.”

Steve can be contacted at [email protected], or leave questions or comments below.

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