Although excellent garden and lawn care practices minimize the need for weed killers, these chemicals, when used properly, can serve as invaluable weed control tools. Always handle, apply and store herbicides carefully, especially where children and pets are present, and follow all manufacturer recommendations for safe and effective application.
Clothing and Safety Gear
Recommended safety gear for handling and applying herbicides includes safety glasses or goggles, rubber gloves, tall rubber boots and a protective suit or sturdy overalls that will not be used for other purposes. At the least, wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks, sturdy boots or shoes and long, chemical-resistant gloves that you can tuck the shirt sleeves into. In some situations, you may need to use a respirator, although this is rare with most herbicides sold in stores. The manufacturer may recommend additional safety equipment. Always follow manufacturer recommendations for safe and effective use.
For small tasks, simple hand sprayers or squirt bottles are widely available, affordable and easy to carry and use. Hand-pumped garden sprayers are a good choice for more extensive tasks. If you have a lot of weeds across a fairly large area, a backpack sprayer is useful. To apply herbicide over a large area while simultaneously diluting the weed killer, often eliminating the need for mixing, hose-end sprayers that consist of a bottle and a nozzle with a straw that pulls up herbicide at the desired rate make things simple.
Wick, or wipe-on applicators are useful for wiping herbicide directly onto leaves and stems without risking drift onto desirable plants nearby. For this type of application, use a sponge or wick on a long handle. A paint or stain stick works well, and you can buy these at hardware stores. If you have plants you especially love in the area where you're using weed killer, wear an absorbent cotton glove over the chemical-resistant glove, dip the cotton glove into herbicide, then wipe the plant's leaves with the herbicide-soaked gloves.
Additional Tools and Equipment
Different tools for herbicide application may be helpful or required in certain situations. For some large, woody shrubs, you may need to drill holes into the trunk, then use a syringe to squirt the herbicide. For careful cut stump or frill application, a paintbrush or foam applicator allows you to brush the material onto the cut surface with minimal risk of drift or runoff. Mixing a dye into the herbicide solution makes it clear which weeds have been treated, ensuring you get every weed. Some herbicide products are pellets or granules that are broadcast by hand in small areas or using a broadcast spreader for effective coverage of larger areas.