Anyone determined to wage war against weeds, anywhere from pampered lawns to overgrown fence rows, needs the proper tool to win the fight. A quality sprayer, suitable for dispensing chemicals ranging from pre-emergent weed control to insecticides, can carry the day.
Sprayers can range from hand-carried models to those big enough to require towing by a four-wheeled ATV or a tractor. Regardless of size or style, sprayers have similarities.
Each has a container, generally made of an opaque, hard synthetic material, to hold chemicals and some mechanism to pressurize the container. A wand with a spray nozzle, or a boom with several attached spray nozzles, delivers chemicals in a fine mist.
And for Blair Griffin, an agricultural extension agent with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, it all begins with the answer to one question: "What are you trying to accomplish?"
For even a small yard, such as a quarter-acre lot containing a sub-urban home, common 1- or 2-gallon pump-up sprayers often found for less than $30 likely will not suffice. "That's a lot of yard to spray with a pump-up sprayer, and it's hard to do weed control with that," he says.
Instead, a backpack-style sprayer can often hold as much as 3 or 4 gallons of chemical, and a lever-action pump can make it easy to keep the container pressurized by pumping with one hand and spraying with the other, Griffin says.
The price for backpack-style sprayers can range from $100 to $250. Options such as a multi-nozzle boom for ATV sprayers can make chores faster and easier.
Larger sprayers can add critical efficiency, particularly when tackling big chores requiring application of large volumes of herbicides or other treatments. Repeatedly having to stop and refill tanks can make the task tedious.
For large jobs, consider a pull-behind sprayer towed by a lawn tractor or ATV. Pull-behind sprayers can carry as much as 50 gallons of chemical and have booms ranging in length from 5 feet to 10 feet. The smallest may cost $200 or $300, while larger models can range in price from $500 to $600. A small electric pump powered by the battery of the ATV or lawn tractor provides the pressure.
Also, many pull-behinds offer a gun-type nozzle that makes it easy to spray fence rows, Griffin says.
Remember, speed can result in poor results, an easy mistake when using an ATV to tow a sprayer rig. Pulling a sprayer faster than 4 mph exceeds the volume at which most nozzles can deliver chemicals, meaning too little chemical will actually reach the turf, Griffin says.
And, look for sprayer nozzles made of hardened plastic, which wear longer than brass nozzles often damaged by corrosive chemicals, Griffin says.
Finally, always properly clean the sprayer after each use, Griffin says. No one wants to leave a residue of weed killer in a sprayer and then accidentally use it later for fertilizing a yard. A swath of dead grass can make this a tough lesson.
Noble Sprayberry is a Phoenix-based freelance writer.