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Lawn care tip: Label is the law

Are you helping or hurting our lakes?

One way to tell is to take a good, hard look at how you are using pesticides and fertilizers on your yard, trees and gardens. Remember, what you put on your yard will eventually get into our lakes and impact water quality.

Even if you think you're using the products safely, the people you hire to do the job may not be.

With the lawn care season kicking into gear, Minnesota Department of Agriculture shared simple but effective advice: In Minnesota, it is unlawful to apply products without following label instructions.

In other words, the label is the law.

If you hire a professional lawn care provider, do your homework. State law requires pesticide applicators to be licensed by the MDA in order to commercially apply pesticides (including weed and feed products) and plant nutrient fertilizers. To be licensed by the MDA, applicators must know and understand state and federal regulations to safely perform lawn, tree and garden services. The ag department offers these helpful tips for the spring gardening season.

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 unused product and reapply to their intended site. Pesticides left on watertight surfaces easily wash into our water supply.

• Buy only what you need. Products are very difficult to dispose of and can go bad quickly.

If you hire a professional:

• Licensed professionals must carry a valid ID card issued by the MDA. Ask to see it before they start work.

• Be wary 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.

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

• Be sure the sidewalks and hard surfaces are swept clean of unused product.

For information about applicator licenses, call the MDA at 651-201-6615. To report unlicensed applicators, file a complaint on the MDA website or call 651-201-6333.

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