Why are pesticide labels so important?
The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner. For example, where pests, diseases or weeds pose a serious threat to the wider environment, to important heritage specimens, to habitat, or to native wildlife.
Chemicals in the garden
Chemical products are used to control pests, diseases and weeds or to modify plant growth, e.g. rooting powders. When carefully used as directed by the manufacturer they are safe and effective.
Reading the label before you make a purchase means:
- You can compare and choose products best suited to your situation, as the active ingredients (normally given in grams per litre) are listed on the label
- You can also be sure you do not buy more than you need; many chemicals have a short shelf-life and are best not kept from year to year
Brand names and packaging
Gardeners should be aware that manufacturers sometimes use similar brand names and packaging for different types of pesticide so that it is easy to inadvertently use the wrong product. If a pesticide that is not approved for edible crops is used on herbs, vegetables or fruit it may be necessary to discard treated produce. Herbicides mistaken for insecticides and fungicides and inadvertently applied to garden plants can result in extensive and costly losses.
Much research is carried out by manufacturers to ensure chemicals are safe for users, consumers and the environment. Following label instructions means that gardeners can use products accurately without harm to themselves, others or their surroundings. Chemicals for organic use must also carry usage instructions.
It is illegal not to follow the instructions on the label. Although your Local Authority Environmental Health Officer is unlikely to raid potting sheds, it’s important that gardeners use chemicals lawfully.