Many Minnesotans are thinking about their lawns, trees and gardens this time of year. Whether one does it on their own or hires a professional, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) urges the safe use of pesticides and fertilizers on one’s property by following all label directions.

Pesticide and fertilizer labels specify how to use products safely and effectively. In Minnesota, it is unlawful to apply products without following label instructions. The label is the law.

Those who plan to hire a professional lawn care provider need to do their homework. State law requires pesticide applicators to be licensed by the MDA in order to commercially apply pesticides and fertilizers, including weed and feed product.

Applicators must know and understand state and federal regulations regarding all aspects of pesticide and fertilizer handling, application and disposal in order to be licensed by the MDA.

What follows are helpful tips for a safe spring:

If you do it yourself

• Read and follow all label directions.

• Do not apply products in windy or adverse weather conditions. High wind can cause products to drift and potentially harm people, pets or plants. 

• Sweep sidewalks and hard surfaces of any dry or granular product and reapply to the intended site. Pesticides left on watertight surfaces easily wash into the water supply.

• Buy only what is needed. Unused products must be stored according to the label, but they can lose effectiveness over time and difficult to dispose of safely.

If you hire a professional

• Remember, professionals must be licensed by the MDA and carry their pesticide applicator license with them. Ask to see their license before they start work.

• Be cautious of people who claim their products are completely safe or pressure you to sign a service contract.

• Recognize posted warning flags in areas that have been chemically treated.

• Remember, applicators are required to provide an application record. Review the records, including products used and the amounts applied.

• Be sure the applicator sweeps the sidewalks and hard surfaces clean of any dry or granular products.

For information about applicator licenses, call the MDA at (651) 201-6615.

To report unlicensed applicators or file a complaint, call (651) 201-6333.

Consumers can contact the Better Business Bureau at 800-646-6222 and check histories for lawn care companies.