By: Scott Eckert, County Extension Agent, Horticulture
If you see leaves curl on garden or landscape plants you may have some herbicide drift damage.
During herbicide applications, very fine droplets or vapors can drift to areas where the application was not intended and as a result, vegetables, ornamentals, and urban trees can show herbicide injury symptoms. It is difficult to determine how far the herbicide will
drift as it will depend on several factors like type of herbicide, environmental conditions at the time of application, and sensitivity of surrounding plants.
Homeowners can decrease the risk of herbicide injury by avoiding applications during windy days and spraying at low pressures. If possible, avoid applications before highly sensitive plants like tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes are planted. Also, avoid using treated grass clippings as mulch near susceptible crops. It takes a long time for herbicides to break down and some of the chemicals can be picked up by the root system.
Recovery of herbicide-injured plants will depend mostly on the amount of herbicide, persistence of the product in the soil, and sensitivity of the plant. Severely damaged plants may not always recover or be able to produce fruit. However, survival and recovery of the plant can increase by enhancing plant vigor with proper watering practices, pest control, and adequate fertilization.