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5/27/2010

Read the Label

Ozarks Gardening
Jim Long

Read the Label!

Besides writing and gardening, my main occupation is curing people’s nail fungus problems. If you garden or injure your nails, you will most likely get nail fungus. Years ago I created a formula that gets rid of this problem for most people. That is, if they read the directions. I ship my product all over the world and for the people who read the directions, it works. But I never cease to be amazed at the number of people who won’t take the time to read my very simple instructions.

This is true for pesticide labels, as well, people just don’t take the time to read the directions. In the last few years, pesticide companies have added more and more information to their product packaging, to the point that many bottles come with pages to read. Worse, you have to read much of the material before  you ever find, the actual directions for using the product.

You know from reading me over the years here that I always recommend using non-chemical controls for garden insects if at all possible. I strongly believe that if you put something on your vegetable crop, you are going to eat it, eventually. I’m not totally opposed to using pesticides when absolutely necessary, but if there is any other means of controlling the bugs, I will.

Reading the label is important in products like carbaryl, which you will know by the name of Sevin. Some gardeners look to Sevin for solving all their bug problems, even though it kills the beneficial ones that often can control the pests. Just spraying to get rid of a pest, doesn’t mean you are being safe. The directions have some specific instructions for the length of time from spray to harvesting the vegetable (it’s called the PHI, or pre-harvest interval).

The amount of time you should wait between spraying a crop and harvesting, or PHI is only one day for asparagus, but it is 14 days on turnips and mustard. The PHI for tomatoes and eggplant is different than for something like potato beetles or corn. (And one pesticide often only works on some pests, not all of them).

The other issue when using chemical insecticides is the amount to use. I’ve heard people describe using a pesticide and not being sure they used enough, so they simply added a few more tablespoons of the concentrate, “just to be sure.” That’s dangerous for a number of reasons, and the most obvious one would be the time between spraying and safely eating the vegetable would be greatly extended. If you double or triple the amount of chemical you are using, you are making the crop less safe for you to consume. (Using more than the recommended rate also guarantees you are killing off bees and other beneficials that pollinate your crop; without pollination, there would be no crop).

If you can pick off potato beetles and smash them with your foot instead of spraying, you’ve saved money (potato beetles seldom do serious harm to potatoes). If you can pick off a tomato worm instead of spraying the whole patch, you’ve saved money and made your tomato crop safer to eat. Use as little chemicals as you can because in the long run you are going to eat whatever you put in your garden. And most important, read the directions, it’s there for a purpose.

Every summer I get lots of requests from people who would like to come and visit my garden to see what strange and unusual things I grow. We occasionally accept specific groups by advance reservation, but this year we have an open house day, just for readers of this column. If you would like to visit and talk gardening, we will be open for you on Friday, June 26. There’s no charge to visit that day, all we ask is that you call 417-779-5450 and let us know you are coming (and to get directions because you will need them).

To see what’s happening in my garden this week: jimlongsgarden.blogspot.com. Questions and comments always welcome through my website: www.LongCreekHerbs.com. Happy gardening!