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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Voices

Take the challenge; read gardening product labels

Sharon Anderson Special to Voice

It’s a dream come true.

You’re a contestant on your favorite game show. The topic is labels.

Trigger finger poised, confidence soaring,

“Bring it on!” you yell.

“For $1,000, what are the labeled directions for angora sweaters?”

“Dry clean only!” you scream.

“For $10,000, the label ‘Do not remove under penalty of law is’ where?”

“It’s on my pillow and mattress!” you shriek.

The crowd is wild. You savor the moment. A hush falls over the auditorium.

“For one million dollars, what label contains signal words?”

Your mind scrambles to remember every label you’ve ever seen. To your horror, the contestant to your left flicks the buzzer as though it is a prized dahlia crawling with aphids.

“It’s a gardening product label, and we need to know how to read it because it’s the law!” she states authoritatively.

You recall her saying during introductions she is a Master Gardener. No match for you, you think. You are sickened by your underestimation of her, but mesmerized by her knowledge as she begins to enlighten the audience.

“Labels are a fascinating topic” she begins. “I’ll use Roundup as an example:

“Roundup is the brand name on the front of the label.

“The type of formulation is a solution which is often pre-mixed and ready to use.

“The ingredient statement provides names and amounts of active and inert ingredients.

“The common and chemical names are listed respectively.

“The net contents statement lists the weight.

“The manufacturer’s name, address, registration and establishment numbers are also listed.

“The precautionary statements describe potential harm to humans and animals, steps to reduce hazards and medical treatment for poisoning.

“An environmental, physical and chemical hazards section describes environmental damage avoidance and proper storage requirements.

“Signal words – danger (most toxic), warning, and caution (least toxic) – describe the toxicity to humans.

“The statement of practical treatment is the first aid treatments section.

“The directions-for-use section describes the crops, animals and sites on which the product legally can be used.”

She went on to explain, “If a medical emergency occurs, take the product and label with you so that physicians can provide appropriate care. Remember that organic products require the same care in reading and use. Organic labels must specify which nutrient is organic and identify it as either synthetic and/or natural by percentage. An organic fertilizer label might indicate 20 percent of nitrogen organic (6 percent synthetic, 14 percent organic).”

She completes the finest label reading lecture you’ve ever heard and walks away with the cool million. You watch in awe, vow to take a County Extension course soon and to always read the label.

This week in the garden

•The aphids have landed and are quickly sucking their way into our plants. They survived the winter quite nicely. For small plants, hose them off with a strong stream of water, paying attention to the undersides of leaves. Follow up with an insecticidal soap. Check the plants weekly and reapply when you see them. They will be here for a while this year.

•Continue to protect any young annuals you might have put out. Bring plants straight out of the greenhouse in at night to give them a few days to acclimate before planting them.

•Feed rhododendrons now as they begin blooming with a good rhododendron fertilizer. By the time they finish blooming, the fertilizer will be down in the roots, where the plant can get to it as it sends out its new leaves.

•Start a regular weed patrol now, as they are wasting no time in sprouting and will soon be taking over. Once you weed an area, immediately put down a layer of mulch two to three inches deep to reduce the next round of weeding.

•As cherry and apple trees finish blooming, get ready to apply sprays for apple maggot and cherry worms. Contact the WSU Master Gardener Plant Clinic at 477-2181 or download information in the Fact Sheets section at

•If a plant seems to be slow at coming to life, continue to be patient for a few more weeks before you pull it out. Some things are just slow to wake up.

•Take walks through the neighborhood and admire all the other gardens. Be sure to take a notepad to “borrow” ideas you see.

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