Spot treating for pests is a smart gardening technique. By spot treating, I mean limiting a pesticide application to only the affected plant or the affected area of the yard. This will allow you to use pesticides more wisely and save money in the process. It’s smart for the environment and for your pocketbook.

Farmers have moved away from routine blanket applications of pesticides on many crops because of chemical costs, environmental concerns and increased pest management knowledge. Homeowners should follow their lead.

There’s just not a good reason to routinely cover every square inch, every shrub, every vegetable with pesticides. This old approach to pest control is just plain “overkill,” pardon the pun. It not only wastes valuable chemicals but indiscriminate pesticide use can adversely affect beneficial insects and other organisms that greatly help in the control of pests. Once you’ve wiped out the beneficial critters, you may have to use more pesticides to control the bad guys. And many pests become resistant to pesticides from overexposure. Try controlling a pesticide-resistant population of bugs.

When using the word “pesticide,” I’m including insecticides (chemicals designed to control insects), fungicides (chemicals designed to control diseases), nematicides (chemicals designed to control nematodes) and herbicides (chemicals designed to control weeds). Herbicides are frequently overused in our landscapes because the common practice is to cover the entire lawn when treating for weeds. Spot treating for weeds can work, too.

When weeds first show up in your yard (and they will show up), apply the appropriate herbicide for the weed(s) you’re dealing with, before the weeds have a chance to reproduce (prior to flowering). Treat the weed-infested area and a 3- to 5-foot buffer around it. This same principle can be applied when treating plant diseases and insects in the lawn. Of course you must identify the problem first. Your UF/IFAS County Extension Office is a good place to start when trying to identify a plant problem.

pesticides are only one “tool” in the “toolbox” when dealing with plant pests. When a pesticide is warranted, use the least toxic product that will get the job done. And, always read and follow the product’s label directions and precautions. And consider spot treating before the pest is out of control instead of coating everything in sight with a pesticide.

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