Sprayers can be very useful tools for the gardener. They can also be frustrating and a challenge even for the most patient person. And while they aren’t a necessity to gardening, they can be very useful. They can be used to apply a range of liquids from plain water to various chemicals including insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. Having the right sprayer and knowing how to use it can not only make your gardening easier and more successful, it can reduce your use of chemicals. Even if you are using organic products, you still want to use as little as possible. Once you have decided the problem requires a spray, you need to pick the right kind of sprayer for the job. And once you have the sprayer, it is important that it be used in the right way.
All sprayers should be cleaned out after each use and stored along with your chemicals away from children. It is almost impossible to remove all traces of a product once used in a sprayer, especially one with plastic parts, separate sprayers should be used for herbicides. Small traces of herbicides absorbed by a sprayer can damage plants even if you think you have cleaned it well. Label one sprayer “Herbicides Only” and use another for everything else.
Sprayers are designed to deliver a liquid, but sometimes the product you need is a powder or granule. Some dry products can be dissolved to be used in a sprayer. Check the product label to make sure it is intended for use in this manner and follow the directions for dilution.
Several types of sprayers are available to the gardener, each with pros and cons.
Here is a summary of what you are likely to find available for use in the garden:
Compression sprayers: (tank or pump-up sprayers) These sprayers have a tank that will hold anywhere from a liter to several gallons of pre-mixed product. You measure the amount of product recommended for the amount of water the sprayer holds, mix them together and then pump up the sprayer. The compressed air forces the mixture out through a nozzle or wand. The advantage of a compression sprayer is that it delivers the most accurate dilution in the finest spray, minimizing runoff. Another advantage is that you can take it anywhere you can carry it. You are not limited by the length of your hose. It is also easier to use in tight places.
Hand misters: Just like the hand-pumped mister that comes with a window cleaner, many garden products come in a ready-to-use dilution with a hand misting top. All you need to do is read the label for precautions and recommendations, then squeeze. The advantages to this type of mister are that it is economical, extremely portable, delivers a fairly fine spray and is easy-to-use. The disadvantage is that if you have a large area to spray, it can be very tiring to use.
Hose-end sprayers: There are several variations on this type of sprayer. Some come pre-filled with a product that is delivered at a fixed dilution rate. Others are empty and adjustable to be used with any number of products and different dilution rates. All hose-end sprayers are used with concentrated products. Most have an on/off valve. They mix water from your hose with the product as it passes through the nozzle, using your own water pressure to power the sprayer. They all have the advantage of being lightweight and inexpensive. Since they are powered by water pressure, they tend to be able to spray farther than other types. They also all have the same disadvantages. They put out such a large water/product droplet that much of the product runs off the plant and you end up using a lot more of the product.