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Echo Press Editorial: Who is tending your lawn? Make sure they’re pros

Spring is off to a sputtering start but it is getting here, causing yards to green up and getting people to think about applying pesticides or fertilizers.

The key is to do it safely and without harming lakes, streams or other people.

If you’re not sure how to do it, hire someone who does. Minnesota law requires anyone commercially applying weed and feed products; pesticides that control weeds, insects, fungus or other unwanted pests; and/or fertilizers supplying plant nutrients to hold a license issued by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Persons licensed by MDA have passed examinations that demonstrate that they have the needed qualifications and knowledge to use lawn and ornamental care chemicals safely and effectively.

Most professional applicators understand the importance of obeying the law, according to MDA Licensing Manager Joe Spitzmueller, and abide by state and federal regulations. “It is essential that people read and follow label directions to reduce risks for people and the environment,” said Spitzmueller. “Watch out for unqualified persons and companies promoting tree, lawn and garden care services.”

If you’re hiring a professional or doing the work yourself, these tips from the MDA will help ensure lawn, garden and tree-care services are performed correctly:

• Licensed professionals must carry a valid ID card.

• Be cautious of persons who make promises that are too good to be true, make claims that their products are completely safe, or pressure you to commit to and sign a service contract.

• Never apply lawn care chemicals in bad weather conditions, such as in excessive heat or in high wind where products can drift off-site and potentially harm people or plants.

• Notice warning flags that are posted at entry points after a treatment that alert persons to be careful around a treated area.

• Sweep up any product from sidewalks or other hard surfaces and reapply it to the intended site.

• Review the application record provided by the applicator that documents their work, including products used and amounts applied.

• Buy only what you need and store unused products safely.

Consumers can call the Better Business Bureau at 1-800-646-6222 and ask for customer satisfaction history about lawn care companies. For information about applicator licenses, call the MDA at (651) 201-6615.

To report an unlicensed person making a pesticide or fertilizer application, file a complaint online at the MDA website,, click “Register a Complaint” on the homepage, and then go to “Pesticide Misuse Complaint.”