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Pesticide Use for Landscaping Professionals


Applying chemicals to kill unwanted plants, rodents, and funguses falls under the umbrella of tasks for professional landscapers. And it’s a job to take seriously.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says there were over 31,000 pesticide exposure incidents related to lawn pesticides from 1995 to 2002. Note: That’s only seven years.

While this number includes homeowners who fail to understand what they’re using and how to use it, you don’t need me to remind you that harming someone’s kid or pet, even their landscaping, could land you in small-claims court or worse. And you don’t want to poison yourself or your workers, either.

Keep these phone numbers easily accessible for questions and concerns if you’re including pesticide/rodenticide/fungicide services in your business: 800-222-1222, which is the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ Poison Helpline, and 888-426-4435, which is the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center at (the ASPCA line may charge a fee, but even veterinarians will call this line for assistance). Call 911 if a person is exhibiting signs of poisoning (nausea/vomiting, difficulty breathing, seizures, confusion, changes in skin color, pain).

Before you begin spraying, go to https://www.epa.gov/ to find a course near you for self-education. Don’t forget to check with the counties you’re operating in to see if you need special licensing. The EPA website we just mentioned also can help you determine licensing and required courses for professionals, with listings by state.

As you can see, the first rule of thumb in applying any of these products is to find out what required education and licensing are needed to use them in your business. And remember that in many areas, just because you’re licensed and own the business doesn’t mean your workers are licensed to apply these products.

rodent bait and pesticide infographicThe second rule is to read the labels and be sure you thoroughly understand what they’re saying and the potentially harmful effects. If you do not, contact the National Pesticides Information Center at http://npic.orst.edu/ or the product manufacturer. You can also contact your local Cooperative Extension for guidance and, of course, go back to the instructors from that licensing course you took. Remember, if your customer asks you a question and you can’t answer it, you’re not just risking a potential incident, you’re also looking very unprofessional. That said, don’t make something up either. Saying, “I need to check,” is far more intelligent than guessing.

The third rule is to conduct a thorough evaluation of the land and nearby waterways before you apply any of these products. Accidentally contaminating a waterway or well is a huge problem. Consider runoff, rain, cross-contamination, kids, pets, and wildlife.

If you’re using poisons to kill rodents, many are still “double kill,” meaning that anything that eats the dead rodent will die, too. Avoiding these types of rodenticides is simply common sense. Start with the least toxic method and work your way up if necessary.

You’ll learn all about safety gear in those courses we mentioned, and it’s important. It’s hard to imagine anyone is unaware of glyphosate’s potential dangers. Don’t know what glyphosate is? See our second rule of thumb.

Posted on March 24, 2023

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