Vegetable Garden Fertilizers & Pesticides

With the gardening season well underway, thanks to the early, warm spring, I think lots of Kansas gardeners are trying their best to make sure that they have a great garden this year, after the dismal year we had last year. As you are getting your garden started, I would encourage you to take extra care in choosing what you apply to your garden. Many of the products that we routinely use for flowers and other ornamentals are not safe to use on your vegetable garden!

It is very tempting to grab that bag of fertilizer or bottle of pesticide that you bought for your lawn or trees or flowers and use it on your vegetable garden. Sometimes, that is okay. Other times, it can be a BIG problem. Before you apply any product – fertilizer, herbicide, insecticide, fungicide – read the label! It should clearly state that it is safe to use on vegetables. If you are in doubt at all, go buy a product that is specifically for vegetable gardens.

I can’t emphasize enough….READ THE LABEL BEFORE USING ANYTHING!!!

Fertilizers are usually not a problem, as long as they are not combined with another product. The biggest mistake people make is using a “Weed & Feed” product they bought for their lawn. Yes, you might want to prevent weeds in your vegetable garden, but the particular herbicides in those  Weed & Feed products are designed to kill plants like your vegetables. Some of those herbicides will persist in the soil and cause problems for your vegetables for 6-12 months!

Insecticides and fungicides are another issue. Herbicides prevent plants from growing, so you are unlikely to even get a crop. With insecticides and fungicides, a product that is not specifically labeled for use on vegetables may not be safe to use. Those residues may be in or on the plant, causing unknown harm. While unlikely that you would immediately get sick from eating a tomato with a chemical residue not intended for consumption, it is not a good idea to take a risk on pesticides that have not been labeled for use on a food crop or that are at a higher concentration than is labeled for safe use on food crops. You want to consider both short-term and long-term health in those cases, especially if you have young children or elderly in your family.

I personally would avoid consuming produce from a garden that has been treated with a product that is not labeled for edibles. I don’t think it is worth the risk.

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on April 24, 2012, in Around the Garden, Plant Problems & Diseases and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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