Skip to Main Content
Closeup of the center and partial petals of a deep yellow sunflower.

Lawn Pesticides

I normally don’t write on the topic of lawn pesticides because it is so vast, involves emotions, has supporting scientific data on both sides, and has so many people who claim to be “experts”.  There are some who would request additional laws through legislation given their own unique perspective on an industry I have worked in for over 24 years.
Unfortunately, these very factors create confusion because most people are not aware of existing oversight from state agencies concerning laws already functioning within the scope of lawn treatments and specifically pesticides.  On a happier note, there are already stacks of laws restricting, monitoring, and enforcing the use of pesticides in a lawn setting within the state of New Hampshire and Vermont.  Both states have divisions within their respective departments of Agriculture.
In either state, you must pass a written exam which is very comprehensive in material and substance in respect to the license you desire to obtain.  For instance, if you want a turf license, you must take a turf category exam which tests life cycles and specific pests relative to turf or lawns.  In addition to this, you must also take what is commonly known as the “core” which consists of basic terms and laws relative to using pesticides in each respective state.  Items such as reading the label and rates are covered as well as important safety protocol among lots of other subject matter.  If you wish to get another license, say for treating ornamental shrubs, you must take another exam- but you do not have to repeat the “core”.
In both states, your license expires after 5 years so you must either keep up on annual certification credits or retake the entire set of exams.  Each license requires its own set of credits so this often involves a lot of training during the winter months to accrue enough points to renew every 5 years.  In either state, you must have a minimum grade in order successfully pass, become certified, and have a license issued in your particular category.
In New Hampshire, at least one person within a given company must also obtain a higher class license (Supervisory) like a manager who oversees his or her employees who have an operator class license.  The Supervisory level person must then take the exam again, receive a higher score, and pass an oral examination to receive this “Supervisory Level” class license.  As you might imagine, this is most delightful and lots of fun . . . NOT.  As you might have already surmised, all of this licensing and continuing education helps to keep the industry informed on the lates products or issues at hand, monitors product being applied per state and acre by filed reports, and provides a great deal of accountability.
There are different classes of licenses ranging from commercial, to commercial not for hire, to private.  These classes cover home farms, to golf courses, to commercial lawn companies who treat businesses and residential home lawns.  Each has overlapping general rules in NH but each has specific regulations that must be adhered to as part of best practices when dealing with pesticides.
As you may have concluded by now, there is already a lot of regulation regarding pesticide use in NH and VT.  Bad decisions cannot be prevented by adding legislation already on the books designed to watch and monitor any business involved with pesticides.  However, nothing substitutes or compliments intelligence quite like common sense.  Making good daily decisions on what products to use, where to apply them, appropriate rates, and when not to treat for issues are all very important to a high quality, reputable business.  Simply put, it’s the right thing to do.
Real trouble arises with a lack of experience and businesses who do not become licensed yet illegally apply pesticides.  Real trouble continues when a home owner can purchase similar or the same products at a Home Depot/hardware store and then treats for the wrong problem, at the wrong rate, at the wrong time of year because they did not know the pest life cycle.  I can assure you, there are millions more “Do it yourself” folks out there treating their own lawns or pest problems than all of the commercial lawn companies combined in either state- or the USA for that matter!  The pure volume of these numbers speak for themselves.  Who do you think is more likely to inadvertently make a mistake, the employee equipped with a state license with training or “Mike” on the weekend?
As for pesticides, I have read that the sole intention of a pesticide is to kill- and by definition this would be correct.  However, vinegar used at a higher concentration is used as an organic herbicide and can burn your cornea or cause serious injury.  It’s still vinegar but it can be used as a herbicide too.  Very interesting.  I believe in using the right tool for the right job.
Should everyone be “saucing” up their lawns just for aesthetics?  Maybe not.  This question is all in the eye of the consumer.  We do live in the United States where choices can be made?  We all have the right to make choices, all within reason- within the laws established by our government.  Perhaps there are alternatives.  There are materials and pesticides that exist which are in fact more environmentally safe than just 5 years ago.  Like colors on the rainbow, the industry of lawn care continues to change in favor of less pesticide use and more education.  This statement means there may be a time and reason for using a particular product, but only after ruling out alternative measures.
For instance, does every lawn have to be weed free?  Most likely not.  You can reduce pesky weeds in your lawn by keeping it properly cut and healthy.  You can reduce nuisance weeds by aerating and overseeding, by doing many little things correctly.  Who is willing to step up to the plate?  What is wrong with treating for weeds maybe once or twice a year to knock back the population complimented by a turf health care program?  What is wrong with living with weeds?  To each his own may best sum this up, with a dash of compromise.
The issue of pesticide use will always be a hot topic, and it should be for many reasons.  However, additional government regulation and control may not be the best and first answer over education and common sense.  Information is power and those who rely on emotions and not real information are at a disadvantage.  This is my humble opinion for today’s post.  I hope you learned something new today, use it!