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Garden Sprayer Buying Guide

Sprayers are valuable tools in the gardener's tool shed. They provide an easy and efficient method of delivering the right amount of material in the right place.

Garden Sprayer Buying Guide

Why You Might Need a Garden Sprayer

Garden sprayers allow you to:

  • Measure the exact amount of material required for the job.
  • Adjust the spray precisely from coarse, drenching coverage to a very fine mist to a long-range pinpointed stream.
  • Start and stop the spray quickly and at will.
  • Prevent overspraying by using the long-reaching hose and spray wand.
  • Spray up or down as well as underneath leaves (where most insects and plant diseases can be found.
  • Buy concentrated lawn and garden treatment materials, which in many cases are more cost-effective than the premixed versions.

Before choosing a garden sprayer, you must identify the problem. Some areas can be spot-treated with small amounts of pesticide, other areas (lawns or large gardens) need a larger-capacity sprayer. Sprayer sizes vary greatly, from 1 quart to 4 gallons, so finding a model to fit various gardening needs won't be hard.

It's recommended that gardeners have at least two sprayers, one for herbicide and one for pesticide. This isn't a sales gimmick; the residue from many herbicides is difficult to completely remove form inside a sprayer tank. This leftover residue could potentially harm other areas if the sprayer is used there. Plus, it's not a good idea to mix pesticides. Make sure you label each sprayer appropriately.

Remember that both synthetic (man-made) chemicals as well as organic materials like dormant oils can be applied with garden sprayers.

Types of Sprayers

Three main types of sprayers are:

  • Hose-end
  • Tank
  • Backpack

Whichever type you choose, make sure the material you're applying is appropriate for the sprayer.

Hose-End Sprayers

Hose-End Sprayer.

Hose-end sprayers are the simplest and least expensive of the category. A sprayer jar is attached to a regular garden sprayer. Concentrated material is added to the sprayer jar. An adjustment on the jar determines the amount delivered. The force of the water through the hose pulls the material up from the jar and mixes and dilutes it with the water. A built-in anti-siphon device prevents unused material from being pulled back into your water supply.

Tank Sprayers

Tank Sprayer.

Compression or tank sprayers are the most common type of spray equipment. Concentrated material is added to the tank. Water is then added to a marked fill line. The remaining air is pressurized by pumping the handle a designated number of times, and the sprayer delivers the material under pressure. A control lever on the wand controls the spray pattern and amount. Compression sprayers can provide a precise, on target, nondrift spray effective for soil and lawn pests. Adjust the sprayer for a coarse, drenching spray, a concentrated stream or a fine mist.

Tank capacities range from 1 quart to over 3 gallon for handheld models. The tanks may be made from polyethylene plastic, galvanized steel or stainless steel. In addition to treatments for pests and diseases, compression sprayers are designed for applying cleaning solutions for decks and siding.

Backpack Sprayers

Backpack Sprayer.

Backpack sprayers are operated in the same manner as the handheld compression sprayer. Homeowner-type backpack sprayers hold up to 4 gallons. The over-the-shoulder configuration makes it easier to carry the heavier load of material. Some backpack models also use a lever-style pump to maintain pressure without removing the unit form your back.

Spraying Schedule

A regular spraying schedule can help prevent many lawn and garden pest and disease problems.

Early Spring

  • Dormant spraying: Pests overwinter on shrubs, trees and other woody plants. A dormant spray stops many damaging insects and diseases before they have a chance to develop.


  • Lawn weeds: Apply herbicide either when weed is actively growing or before it emerges, depending on the weed. Read the pesticide label for directions.

Early Summer

  • Vegetable and flower gardens: Check plants regularly for pest damage. Spray as needed. 
  • Plant disease: Remove all weeds and dead plants and begin a regular spraying program. Spray susceptible plants before there's evidence of damage. Repeat every seven to 10 days. 
  • Roses: Check roses carefully for black spot on the upper surface of the leaf. Remove and destroy infected leaves. Begin a regular spray program, continuing until the first frost.


  • Outdoor areas: Eliminate mosquito-breeding places (standing water, weed patches, etc.). Spray resting places (flowers, shrubs, dense foliage, outdoor walls and under leaves.

Late Summer

  • Insects: You may be troubled by two types of insects: The first lives in the soil, damaging the grass roots, while the second attacks from above the ground. You can correct insect problems with a spray program and proper lawn care. 
  • Weeds: This time of year, many weeds are noticeable on your lawn, while others are simply regrouping for the attack next spring. Both types can be eliminated now with a spray program.
  • Lawn disease: Lawns that are shaded, watered at night, watered too frequently or tend to remain wet for long periods are most likely to have disease problems. A spray program will help stop the spread.


  • Foundation spraying: Spray the foundation around your house, especially in the fall. Crawling insects are less likely to cross this pesticide barrier. Spray just to the point of runoff and spray all the way around the house. Also, spray a 2- to 4-inch band of soil alongside the foundation.


  • Houseplants: If you find signs of insect attack, you need to apply the proper spray material.

Shop Garden Sprayers


Read and FOLLOW EXACTLY the sprayer instructions and the spray material directions for mixing and use. Follow all safety precautions. Wear protective clothing including gloves and eye protection when spraying. Don't smoke, eat or drink when spraying; wash up afterwards. Spray on a calm day to prevent winds from blowing the spray.