Tom's Blog

Friday, October 3, 2014

Filling spray bottles with herbicide

We use 16 or 32 ounce spray bottles for a lot of our herbicide applications. They are ideal for basal bark applications of small brush. They also work well for small-volume leaf applications (what I call the "herbicide spritz"). Although there is a lot of "stoop" labor in using them, the herbicide can be applied precisely and without any loss to the soil. Backpack sprayers such as the Solo are fine for large-sized shrubs or trees, but they waste too much herbicide when used for the small shrubs we mostly deal with.

The photo here shows the technique I use for filling such bottles. I do it on the tailgate of the Kawasaki Mule, which avoids the necessity to stoop. The whole procedure is done over a children's sled, so that accidental spillage is controlled. The blue bottle contains the herbicide reservoir, generally enough for a whole day's work. This bottle originally contained laundry detergent and pouring from the lip is easy to control. The box of industrial-strength tissue is a required item. When the spray apparatus is removed from the sprayer its lower tube always contains a few drops of herbicide so it is laid on a sheet of tissue. The small funnel is also laid on this tissue after it is used. When the operation is completed, any drops on the funnel, sled, or elsewhere are wiped up, the tissue folded and discarded into a trash container. The herbicide mixture being used here is 20% Garlon 4 in Bark Oil NT with an oil-soluble red dye added.

The choice of spray bottle is critical. Some work well and others are disasters. From lengthy experience, we have found that the cheap spray bottles sold at Ace or True-Value Hardware are fine, and are cheap enough so that they can be tossed as soon as they start leaking. (All spray bottles will inevitably leak.)

My rule is that as soon as a spray bottle shows the slightest sign of leakage it is tossed. At our hourly rate, the time it takes to fix and/or clean a bottle is not worth it. In addition to the time it takes to fix a spray bottle, you have the time wasted in the field with a leaking sprayer.

I prefer the 32 ounce spray bottle, which holds enough herbicide for a couple of hours work.

The ideal method for basal bark application to sumac, buckthorn, gray dogwood, black walnut, etc. is to grab a stem and pull it toward you, so that the far side of the stem base is exposed. Lean over and give a single "spritz" to the base of the stem. This is all that is needed. For small stems, only one side needs to be treated. Some of my earlier posts have details.


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