Your guide to using sprayers in the garden

June 23, 2015

Sprayers are not only useful for applying pesticides. You can use a sprayer to apply fertilizers to lawns or vegetables or to spray a herbicide on poison ivy that's run up a tree. Find out what you need to know before using a sprayer in your garden.

Your guide to using sprayers in the garden

Using insecticides

No garden is pest-free, but a well-tended garden contains a balance of beneficial predators and healthy, resistant plants along with a tolerable number of undesirable insects and other pests.

  • When insecticides are needed to help with pests that threaten your garden, sprayers can be useful.

Pump sprayer

The simplest sprayer is a handheld, trigger-type, pump spray bottle, which is fine for applying homemade pest repellents to plants.

  • When using garden chemicals, reserve a sprayer exclusively for pesticides.
  • Label it clearly with an indelible marker and clean it out thoroughly after each use.

Hose-end sprayer

The easiest way to treat large areas is with a hose-end sprayer.

  • You place a water-soluble fertilizer or chemical in a glass or plastic reservoir whose top attaches to a hose; when the hose is turned on, the water pressure draws up, dilutes and disperses the solution.
  • Be sure to use only concentrates specified for hose-end applicators and to adjust the sprayer settings for the proper dosage.

Sprayer styles

There are many styles of tank sprayers for home gardens, ranging in capacity from four to 19 litres.

  • The most common type is the compression sprayer, which works with air pressure that's built up when you intermittently pump a plunger.
  • Another type is the knapsack sprayer; you maintain the pressure needed to expel the contents by continuously pumping a lever.

Stainless steel or plastic?

While both types of tanks resist corrosion, translucent plastic lets you see when to refill, and it's usually lighter than stainless steel.

Measure and mix

  • Use only the amount of chemicals recommended by the manufacturer for a specific application, and dilute with water in the proper proportion.
  • To help chemicals stick to plant leaves, you can add three drops of dishwashing liquid or insecticidal soap per one litre of prepared spray.

Filling a sprayer

  • When filling a sprayer with manure tea or other solution that may contain solids, strain it through a doubled-up pair of pantyhose legs or a coffee filter inserted into a plastic or metal funnel.

Filtering is necessary to keep particles from clogging the nozzle of the sprayer.

Clogged nozzle?

Clear it by inserting a thin nail or sewing pin or by spraying it from the outside with a strong stream of water.

If you must spray...

  • Always read pesticide labels carefully and follow the directions on handling, use and storage to the letter.
  • Apply pesticides on a dry, calm day with moderate temperatures and low humidity.
  • Keep children and pets away from pesticides while they're being applied and until they have dried or settled completely.
  • Cover as much of your skin as possible. Wear rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, eye protection and a dust mask. Avoid touching your face or eyes.
  • Never eat, drink or smoke while handling pesticides. Be careful to avoid inhaling powders or sprays.
  • Don't allow pesticides to contaminate ponds, streams or swimming pools.
  • Never apply pesticides to food crops unless the labels state that it is safe to do so.
  • Clean all equipment carefully after application. Wash your hands and face thoroughly with soap and launder clothing separately.
  • Keep pesticides in their original packaging and store them in a secure, dry, cool place.
  • Repeat applications only as needed and as indicated on the product label.


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