Everyone likes a lush green lawn with trees, shrubs, maybe a garden. They spend a lot of time, energy and money making it that way.

But are they thinking it through? Could they be harming the environment by incorrectly applying pesticides and fertilizers? Are those chemicals ending up in lakes, streams or groundwater, impacting wildlife and other living organisms?

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is urging everyone those who do the work themselves and those who hire professionals to make sure they are safely using pesticides and fertilizers on their property this spring.

It starts with 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.

If you hire a professional lawn care provider, do your homework. The MDA noted that state law requires pesticide applicators and their company to be licensed by the MDA in order to commercially apply pesticides and fertilizers, including weed and feed product. Licensed applicators know and understand state and federal regulations regarding all aspects of pesticide and fertilizer handling, application, and disposal, the MDA said.

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The ag department provided the following helpful tips for a safe spring season.

If you do it yourself:

  • Test your soil to determine fertilizer needs.

  • Carefully read and follow all label directions.

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

  • Do not apply if heavy rain is expected.

  • Do not over water following application.

  • Sweep sidewalks and hard surfaces of any dry or granular product after you apply the product to the intended site. Pesticides or fertilizers left on hard surfaces easily wash into our water supply.

  • Place signage after the treatment.

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

If you hire a lawn care professional:

  • Professionals applying pesticides must be licensed by the MDA and carry their pesticide applicator license with them. The company they work for must have a fertilizer license to apply fertilizer. Check the MDA website at mda.state.mn.us/licensesearch for fertilizer license verification. Also ask to see a pesticide applicator’s license before they apply pesticides.

  • 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. Make sure your hired professional places warning signs after your lawn treatment.

  • Lawn care professionals are required to provide an application record to you, the customer. Review the records, including products used and the amounts applied.

  • Be sure the professionals sweep 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, file a complaint on the MDA website at www.mda.state.mn.us/pestfertcomplaints or call 651-201-6333.