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Nix the bugs and weeds safely

Emerald. Glossy. Barefoot soft. And dandelions or crane flies? Forget about it!

As much pride as Northwesterners take in their lawns, we know all that green can came at an environmental cost. These six tips can help you avoid a fertilizer fiasco when your landscape needs a little coaxing:

  1. Choose organics whenever possible.

    Sure they may cost a little more, but they can be more effective than traditional products and they're easier on the environment. Catch problems early (it's easy to hand-dig a few clumps of clover out of the grass) before they become so widespread you need to break out the chemical big guns.
  2. Follow manufacturers' instructions

    . Read the label instructions carefully. When it comes to lawn treatments, more isn't better – it wastes money, may damage your landscape, and leads to toxic runoff.
  3. Send children and pets indoors

    and pick up strewn toys before applying products. Keep everyone off the treated area according to the manufacturer's instructions. Many parents follow the quarter-inch of rain (or sprinkling) rule – until the treatment is thoroughly washed in, no little feet allowed.
  4. Wear safety gear.

    Save the shorts and sandals for the beach. Before handling fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide, put on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, safety glasses, gloves, and a dust mask. If you spill anything on your clothes, don't just keep pushing on until you're finished. Stop immediately, change clothes, and rinse the area thoroughly to remove toxins before they have a chance to be absorbed through your skin. And even if you've spilled nary a drop, change your clothes and wash as soon as you're finished.
  5. Spray the weeds –

    and only the weeds. Choose a windless day for your application to avoid overspray. In many areas, you'll find the stillest air in the early morning.
  6. Buy only what you'll use in a single application.

    If you must store landscape chemicals, choose a cool, dry place out of the reach of children – preferably in a locked cabinet or shed.

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