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.

Sprayer Types
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.

Ready-to-use hose-end sprayers: These are the ones that come attached to the container of garden product. The advantage of these sprayers is that they make the product more convenient to use since they don’t require any mixing or measuring. They are already calibrated
for that product. The disadvantage is that these sprayers can only be used with their specific product and cannot be adjusted for use with anything else. They also put out large droplets of the water/product mix that are not efficient.

Hose-end sprayers that are not ready-to-use: These sprayers have their own jar (usually plastic) and come in two types, those that have a dial for calibrating and those that do not.

The dial hose-end sprayers are very easy to use. You simply pour the liquid product into the sprayer, put the top back on and (following the recommendation on the product you are using) set the dial to the recommended rate (such as 2 tablespoons per gallon). Then you attach your hose and spray. The dial hose-end sprayers do not require you to measure out a specific amount of the product. Once you have finished spraying, you can pour the remaining product (it has not been diluted) back into its original package. The disadvantages of dial hose-end sprayers are the same as all other hose end sprayers.

The other type in this category is the hose-end sprayer without a dial. They come in several capacities. It will say on the label that it is a 4 gallon, 6 gallon or larger. Obviously the jar (usually around a quart in size) does not hold that much liquid. Those capacities indicate how many gallons of spray can be made at once with the sprayer. These sprayers require measuring and premixing the product. Then the semi-concentrated water/product mixture in the jar is siphoned out as the water passes through the spray head. They sprayers sound complicated and can be very confusing. Here are some instructions for using one of these sprayers. If you still don’t feel confident, we suggest buying another type.

• First, decide how many gallons of spray you will probably need.

• Check the label for the rate of application for the plant you are treating. Open the sprayer and add the recommend ed rate of chemical for each gallon you want to make (usually 2-3 tablespoons per gallon). If it said to use 2 tablespoons per gallon and you want to make 4 gallons, add 2T x 4, or 8 tablespoons to the sprayer.

• Now look on the side of the sprayer for the marks that indicate gallons. It should have marks all along the side indicating the number of gallons. To the chemicals already in the jar you need to add enough water to bring it up to (in this case) the 4 gallon mark. You now have the right dilution for this specific sprayer.

• Replace the top and hook it to the hose. When the sprayer is switched on and water is passing through the sprayer top, the mechanism will siphon up the correct amount of chemical/water to mix with it. The water should not fill the jar like it does with a Miracle-Gro No-Clog feeder.

• When 4 gallons of water have passed through the top of the sprayer, all of the chemical should be gone

Here at McShane’s we have a variety of sprayers for you to purchase. If you need help choosing one or learning how to use one, the experts at McShane’s Nursery and Landscape Supply would be happy to help.

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