Fertilizers Pesticides

Pesticides or Fertilizers: Just the Right Dose

Ill.: clipart-library.com & kissclipart.com

“If a little is good, more must be better!” That seems to be the motto of some gardeners who double or even triple the recommended concentration of pesticides, thinking they’ll be more successful in controlling pests or weeds. But they’re very wrong. Nearly all pesticides, even the safest ones, like insecticidal soap and horticultural oils, are phytotoxic (poisonous to plants) if used at excessively high concentrations. And any excess product is likely to eventually find its way into the water table and the food chain. The general rule is to only use pesticides when they are really needed and, when you do, to follow the application guide to the letter.

And don’t imagine that if you dilute a pesticide more than is recommended, you’re helping the environment. It will simply not be effective, leading you to apply more in the future. Again, apply any pesticide at the recommended rate, no more, no less.

To avoid making mistakes, it is always wise read the label every time you use a pesticide: your memory may not be as good as you think.


The situation is similar with fertilizer, at least, when it concerns applying a greater concentration. Never increase the recommended dose of any fertilizer or you could burn the roots of the plant to which it is applied. Furthermore, minerals applied too generously eventually end up polluting rivers, lakes and underground water sources. Also, as many gardeners know, excess nitrogen (the first number on the label of any fertilizer) stimulates fast but weak growth in plants, leaving them susceptible to insects and other predators.

Unlike pesticides, however, you can reduce the application rate of fertilizer without danger. In fact, the rate recommended by the supplier is often calculated to encourage you to use a maximum amount of their product, forcing you to use it up quickly so you’ll buy more. Experiment if you want, but you can usually get beautiful results by applying any fertilizer, especially a fertilizer in which the percentage of one or more of the 3 minerals listed is greater than 15, at a quarter of the recommended rate.

Article originally published on November 12, 2015. 

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

4 comments on “Pesticides or Fertilizers: Just the Right Dose

  1. Pingback: Make Your Garden a Safer Place for Reptiles – Laidback Gardener

  2. Years ago, I briefly worked for what I believed at the time to be a reputable ‘landscape’ company. One of my many non-horticulturally oriented tasks was printing out all those binders of MSDSs in both Spanish and English for the entire fleet of vehicles, as well as the offices. It is required by law. However, there is NO law stating that those using the many and various chemicals must be able to actually ‘read’ . . . in either English or Spanish. Within months, some of the useless binders had been used as toilet paper. There was no accounting for the use of the various chemicals. I had to leave and file a release of liability with the Agricultural Commissioners of all nine Counties in which we worked. We could have been using herbicides as fertilizers for all I know!

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!

%d bloggers like this: