So, How Harmful Is a Weed...Really?
I Haven't Used Conventional Lawn Treatments for Years
My lawn, both the section in front of and the larger area behind my home, won't win any "yard of the month" prizes. Still, I can feel assured the grass, trees, shrubs and those flowers that survive my lack of horticultural talents will not cause harm to my young great-grandchildren or my dog, all of whom play in the grass. You see, I don't use lawn and garden chemicals to treat anything growing on my property and haven't for years... not since I learned how toxic and dangerous they are.
Unfortunately, I can't be certain my neighbors don't use Roundup and other toxic chemicals to kill weeds in their lawns and gardens, so toxins may be seeping onto my property in the runoff from heavy winter and spring rains. After all, my street goes downhill, and my lot is lower than several on the upper end of my block.
At least I'm not guilty of spreading, spraying or dumping poison onto my lawn and plants, though I have no control over my neighbors' practices. My research into Roundup, made by Monsanto Chemical Company (also the maker of Agent Orange, a chemical defoliator containing--now banned--Dioxin used in the Vietnam war, which caused serious illnesses and immune problems for many war veterans and Vietnamese civilians) horrified me. Monsanto is a major producer of the toxic chemicals used as pesticides for commercial crops. That powerful chemical company plans to unleash a new poison on the environment--one with a chemical component of Agent Orange. I'll tell you all about it in another hub. For the moment, let's talk about weeds and lawn problems.
That photo at the top of your screen shows an actual weed that is living quite happily in one of my backyard flower beds. Either my son or I will eventually pull it out, but right now it's not hurting anything or anyone. It sprouted right in the middle of foliage left from a spring bulb plant no longer flowering and appears to be living harmoniously there.
Does the presence of that weed bother me? No, not unduly. Does it bother anyone else? Well, if so, they haven't said anything to me about it. But, even were someone to do so, I'm not going to use any drastic or toxic method to eradicate that or any other weed on my property.
My Lawn Needs Some TLC, Not Poison!
My Lawn Has Other Problems Beside Weeds
I've recently been in communication with a horticulturist from the local Home Extension Service about some problems with my lawn. I told him I would not consider using a toxic fungicide (even though my son laughingly said the patches are spreading "...like something from a horror movie."). He recommended a natural, non-toxic product, All Natural Disease Control RTU (ready to use), from montereylawngarden.com.
There are some spots of what is possibly "Brown Patch" on the edge of my back yard. I suppose it's called brown patch because the grass dies and dirt shows through, which looks like... yes, a "brown patch." There are several factors that can contribute to Brown Patch in addition to a fungus: the buildup of grass clippings, too much shade, thatch (which may result from using a riding lawnmower), etc. Since the grass is St. Augustine (which has a horrid habit of spreading through ugly runners), this may be one of the culprits.
The horticulturist gave me advice about other methods (requiring no product use) that may get rid of the spreading patches of almost barren lawn and possibly suppress a couple of Fairy Circles on my lawn. One of these is to aerate the ground, which my son will do in the near future.
For those of you who think Fairy Circles are figments of my overwrought imagination rather than a lawn disease, let me hasten to assure you they are real. The "circles" are darker rings of grass around an area that tends to grow less grass but produce many toadstools after lots of rain. The toadstools must be pulled up and removed promptly to prevent their spores from spreading. Fairy Circles grow from dead roots, often where a tree was removed. That explains why they're in two places on my lawn, because these are the spots where two large hardwood trees and their stumps were removed. These trees were uprooted during a 2007 tornado. Apparently enough of the stumps and roots were left underground to produce the toadstools. Toadstools are defined as the "fruiting bodies" of fungus that feeds off the rotted wood below ground.
In addition to the toadstools that pop up after heavy rains, clover grows inside these Fairy Circles, and it's very fast growing. When my son mows the grass, it will be gone for a few days, then more pops up. However, the patches of clover really don't bother me any more than do a few weeds.
Does my attitude about lawn care seem somewhat laissez faire? Perhaps so, but I don't have the talent for gardening that my mother and grandmother before me had. Consequently, any success I've ever had growing roses or other plants is merely an accident of luck. Since my lawn is never going to be a showplace, maybe that's why I'm willing to share the ground around my home with a few weeds rather than bring out the "big guns"--toxic lawn treatment chemicals.
Can the Honeybee Survive Insecticides?
Speaking of Insecticides...
If you've been keeping up with the frightening news about the disappearance of honeybees in recent years (termed colony collapse disorder ), you may be interested in this tidbit. I read a news report last month about research linking the increase in honeybee deaths with insecticides, specifically the neonicotinoid insecticides used to treat corn seeds. These insecticides, which paralyze the nerves of insects, are some of the most widely used in the world. Since honeybees are critical for pollinating food crops, the mass die-offs of honeybee colonies is a major cause for concern. Whether or not this new knowledge will result in any changes in insecticide use by the huge agribusiness conglomerates that profit from toxin-treated crops remains to be seen.
The study, entitled Assessment of the Environmental Exposure of Honeybees to Particulate Matter Containing Neonicotinoid Insecticides Coming from Corn Coated Seeds was published in the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science & Technology journal.
My Earth Day Motto Is "Live and Let Live--Without Herbicides"
Some plants live for a while in my front yard, then inexplicably die. In some instances, I see the dreaded black spot on a rose bush and know the cause. Other times, the plant looked healthy almost up to the minute it chose to expire. A real gardener would know what happened, but the description "real gardener" doesn't fit me. I simply accept the plant's fate and replace it with something else...hoping it's hardier and will survive my benign neglect.
Three years ago two supposedly dwarf crepe myrtle trees were planted beside my driveway and thrived immediately. The second year of their life here, they were filled with gorgeous white blossoms, but then the trees grew to heights of more than 10 feet and had to be cut back a lot. I didn't want them to be massive trees, which is why I ordered the dwarf variety. Obviously, there was a mistake with the labels at the tree nursery, since I saw the tag that read "Dwarf Crepe Myrtle." These trees, pruned mercilessly just a year ago, are already reaching for the sky again, but this spring they haven't bloomed...so far. Perhaps all the pruning upset their systems. I hope I'll see those pretty blooms again.
Thanks for Reading and Supporting This Writer!
Your comments are welcome and your feedback valuable.
Hooray! The crepe myrtles bloomed!
No green thumb, but sometimes luck
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Jaye Denman
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on April 20, 2015:
Deb - I'm so sorry about your mom's paralysis and suffering from Guillain-Barre Disease. I hope she will recover and regain her mobility. The paralysis does go away for many GB patients, though they may still be left with some residual weakness. Best wishes for your mom's health.
The harm done to people by toxic pesticides and herbicides is unfathomable, and the greed of chemical company execs and shareholders is despicable that they continue to promote this poison in spite of knowing its danger. We would be much better off to live in peace with weeds. (My own back yard is flourishing with dandelions just now!)
Thanks for reading and your comment.
Deb B on April 20, 2015:
My mom is severely paralyzed from working on her lawn after it was sprayed by Tru-Green with pesticides. She suffers from Guillain-barre which is a neurological immune disease.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on June 04, 2014:
Moonlake - Thanks for the compliment and the vote. The state of my roses varies from season to season, but I enjoy the blooms I get. I'll have to try your vinegar tip. Got any suggestions for slugs? Jaye
moonlake from America on June 03, 2014:
Love your roses. We don't use toxic products on our yard. I'm always after dandelions with vinegar. Voted up on your hub.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on March 26, 2014:
Good for you, ologsinquito, for standing firm against toxic chemicals! Thanks....Jaye
ologsinquito from USA on March 26, 2014:
I won't use toxic chemicals on my lawn, and I don't care what it looks like. Great article. Voted up and shared.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on February 11, 2014:
Electro-Denizen: I applaud you for taking "natural" care of your lawn (and the bees) rather than using poison. I wish we could put Monsanto and other chemical companies out of business!
Electro-Denizen from UK on February 11, 2014:
It always amazes me that companies make so much money making poisons, like Monsanto. I don't know what this says about the human condition, really. Our lawn is a weed disaster, as nature intended :-) In fact, we even leave a large area uncut year in year out, for natural things to grow and for bees to take advantage of. 100% agreement with this hub!
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on June 29, 2013:
Thanks, chef-de-jour....I love the expression you used: "...letting your garden take a walk on the wildside."
While the grass is kept mowed (and, by the way, the "spotty" places are filling in), much of my lawn does have a "natural" look about it. I won't use chemicals, so any weeds that don't get pulled by hand remain there. I'll never win a "Lawn of the Month" award in my neighborhood, but that's fine with me. Taking care of my tiny spot on the planet is more important.
Thanks for reading and for your comments.
Andrew Spacey from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on June 29, 2013:
Well done. From a young age I've always felt that neatly manicured gardens, flower beds and other dainty delicacies were just too synthetic? When I later heard about insecticides, slug pellets and dozens of nasty chemical treatments for soil and plants I was repulsed. Why can't we let the wild flowers and grasses grow? If they're managed in a sensible fashion they can really surprise and delight.
So bravo for letting your garden take a walk on the wildside. Mother Nature needs all the help she can get at present.
Voted and shared.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on May 18, 2013:
Aunt Jimi--Thanks so much for your feedback. Indeed, searching the Internet for non-toxic methods of lawn and garden care turns up a lot of much better (and safer) ways to control weeds and insects.
Aunt Jimi from The reddest of the Red states! on May 18, 2013:
Nice photos. Agree that Roundup and that sort of stuff is nasty. Natural ways of controlling weeds and insects is a better way to go and there is tons of information about how to do that. Voting up and sharing!
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on May 09, 2013:
Whonu...Thanks so much for your kind words about this article and your supportive comments. The earth is in our care, so it's our responsibility to be good stewards, beginning with where we live.
whonunuwho from United States on May 09, 2013:
A fantastic article and beautiful pictures to illustrate it all. Thank you for sharing this vital information about toxins and how they affect our environment, as well as the bees that we so depend upon for pollination. Our yards are important to us, and like our children, that too, deserves proper attention.whonu
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on May 08, 2013:
Thanks for reading, Mary, the vote, sharing and for your comments. You're protecting your little schnauzer by not using pesticides or herbicides (if you don't get toxic runoff from your neighbors' lawns).
I use white vinegar for a lot of things around the house. It's terrific for cleaning, but I didn't know it would destroy weeds. I'll have to give it a try for that purpose.
Mary Hyatt from Florida on May 08, 2013:
I never use toxic sprays, etc. on my lawn, cause my little Schnauzer plays in the yard. I use my old stand-by white vinegar to spray on weeds (wrote Hub about using white vinegar).
Yes, I've been reading lately about the demise of honey bees. Too bad.
Voted UP and shared.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on May 08, 2013:
Hi, Rajan Jolly...Thanks for reading and your comments. I'm doing my part toward protecting the planet from toxic chemicals, (and I'll bet you are as well). Now, if we can just convince everyone else to do the same!
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 08, 2013:
Great to know you abhor using chemical pesticides. It's so good to hear that. We owe it to ourselves to stay way from toxic chemicals for a healthier Earth.
Voted up, useful and interesting . Shared as well.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on April 30, 2013:
Thanks, Theresa....My lawn still has the brown patches, and some of my roses succumbed to a blight, but spring has a way of providing bursts of color in spite of my lack of gardening ability. The crepe myrtles are cut back every year, but when warm weather and rain arrive, the buds and leaves pop out so fast it's amazing. I look forward to their flowers.
Hope you're having a lovely spring!
Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on April 30, 2013:
This was a great hub Jay. And for someone who is having troubles (brown patches) with her lawn, you are obviously doing something right! All the flowers were just beautiful and I liked the crepe myrtles with and without their flowers, Great hub. I hope you are having a good week. Blessings. Theresa
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on March 29, 2013:
Thank you, au fait. Since my 8-year-old dog was diagnosed with a medical problem that indicates her immune system is compromised, I'm so thankful I haven't used pesticides or herbicides on my property. In addition to the damage they do to humans who eat food containing pesticide residue, they are one of the main causes of cancer in dogs and cats, because the toxins go through the pads of their feet when they walk around outside on treated lawns.
I look forward to reading your hub about pesticides causing weight gain. You're a woman after my own heart when it comes to food safety and health!
C E Clark from North Texas on March 29, 2013:
Quite true that even if one doesn't use pesticides on their own yard or garden, they can still seep in from the neighbors, spray planes that are spraying nearby, in the air, and of course on fruits and vegetables from the market (unless you buy organic). Pesticides kill, which is why we use them, but if they affect other living things adversely, what's to stop them from harming us too? Pesticides also make people fat, (read about it in my hub titled "Things (Besides Food) That Can Make You Fat."
Good that you're shining a light on this. It's getting harder and harder to avoid pesticides.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on March 22, 2013:
georgescifo...Thanks for reading this hub and for your wise comments. I wish everyone realized the dangers of toxic chemicals when used on lawns. Regards, JAYE
georgescifo from India on March 21, 2013:
always keep toxic items away from your lawn and its premises. Always keep it natural so that you do be victim of the side effects of the toxic items. Thanks for writing this interesting hub.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on January 05, 2013:
Thank you, BKCreative, for reading this hub and for your insightful comments. I'm honored to have a long-time hubber with your writing skills following me. I'm going to try to catch up on some of your hubs, too.
P.S. One of my adult grandsons lives in Brooklyn, too.
BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on January 05, 2013:
So glad you have taken it upon yourself to make changes - we just have to. How selfish we have become - to not think of the other animal life around us. I must keep up with you so I will follow.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on October 24, 2012:
healthylife2....Thanks for reading and your comments. I agree with you that preserving health by avoiding the use of poisonous chemicals takes precedence over a "Yard of the Month" sign on the lawn. I wish more people would realize the dangers of pesticides and herbicides.
Cathy....I'm glad you enjoyed the article, and thanks for the tweet. Dandelions can be beautiful. HP writer Movie Master has a hub about this wrongly maligned plant with gorgeous photos. Here's the link because you will appreciate it:
As for GMOs, their existence terrifies me. I hope the California ballot initiative to force labeling of GMOs in that state is passed. It could lead to GMO labeling throughout the USA, which I believe knowledgeable consumers want.
Ms. Immortal from NJ on October 24, 2012:
Thanks, great information, voted up and tweeted.
Weeds can be beautiful too. I am one of those people that actually like dandalions on my lawn.
GMO crops actually have insecticides built into their genetic structure. This is another contributing factor to the extinction of our honey bees.
Very sad :o(
healthylife2 on October 24, 2012:
Excellent article. I also refuse to put chemicals on my lawn and have way too many weeds that I can't keep up with but the chemicals are too dangerous. Fortunately the previous owners planted beautiful flowers that come up every year but I won't be winning any awards either for our yard but I'll know that my family isn't exposed to chemicals.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on October 22, 2012:
Thanks, Linda....The brown patch in my back yard is a bit improved, but now toadstools as hard as brick spring up every time it rains. They are in an area of the yard where a very large hardwood tree once stood. After it fell victim to a tornado I had the stump ground. Apparently, the "life force" of those amazing (and ugly) toadstools is deeply underground on whatever wood was left. If it's not one thing, it's three or four when you have a lawn, isn't it?
At least, I can use an implement to break the toadstools, knowing they will return, but I'm not harming the planet. The rest of my yard could use some TLC; otherwise, it's okay (and so am I).
Linda Crist from Central Virginia on October 22, 2012:
I think your yard is beautiful, even with the spreading brown patch. I happen to love your weed and you won me over with the Crepe Myrtle and Daffodils. They are my favorites. I applaud you for standing your ground and, for being aware that even your best efforts may be undone by a less than informed or considerate neighbor. What a good lesson in how our actions may affect others. I agree that you get an A+++ for this one.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on August 06, 2012:
Hi, Stacie....I'm so glad you've stopped using pesticides--so much healthier for you, your family, children, pets and the environment! As you mentioned, the problem is those around you who continue to use them and let them run off onto your property when it rains. We must keep getting the message out to those unaware of their danger.
I recently ordered a gadget from Amazon that was inexpensive but makes manual digging up of weeds much easier. Since I recall my grandmother using a trowel, hoe and other implements (including her bare hands) to wrestle weeds from her flower beds, I know they can be tamed if we but try!
Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. Jaye
Stacie L on August 06, 2012:
I try to use natural products around the yard...it's difficult to deal with the weeds in the flower garden for sure. I have a water well so I've become more proactive and stopped using pesticides. Now if everyone else around me stopped it would be great!
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on May 27, 2012:
Good for both of you! I wish I were physically able to garden, but in lieu of actually producing my own organic veggies, I search them out at a local farmers market. I was about to put a bunch of organic cilentro in the fridge yesterday when a tiny ladybug crawled out of the green onto the counter! I picked it up gently on a paper towel and took it to my flower bed where it may continue to do some good.
I think the trend toward home veg gardens is wonderful!
I'll bet your lawn looks great. Only golf courses should look like golf courses...right?
Thanks for reading and for your comments.
2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on May 27, 2012:
I try to garden organically, and so does the other Patricia. In fact, she is very good at producing herbs and vegetables without any herbicides or insecticides.
My "grass" is basically anything green - decorated with dandelions and buttercups. So it doesn't look like a golf course - but I don't play golf on it.
An interesting hub - voted up.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on April 25, 2012:
Hi, Leslie...I'm not surprised to learn you're an organic gardener and "green" practitioner. Since you're also a "real" photographer, your kind words about my photos are high praise, indeed. Thanks!
Good morning, Stephanie...It's unfortunate that many people don't give any thought to what they're doing to the environment, wildlife, their own health and that of their neighbors by using chemicals on their lawns and gardens....Sprayed pesticides and herbicides can drift onto other property than that where it's used via the wind and rain runoff. Even though we don't use these chemicals ourselves, we're somewhat at the mercy of those who do.
Thanks for reading my article and for your feedback.
Stephanie Henkel from USA on April 25, 2012:
I really dislike using chemicals on our lawn and garden because of the harm it might do to the birds and butterflies (and me!) that live here.
Unfortunately, many of our neighbors use chemicals on their lawns and trees. While their properties look nice, I always wonder what damage they are doing to the environment. Thanks for the tip about All Natural Disease Control RTU...that might be the answer to one of our problems. I enjoyed your article and voted it up!
Movie Master from United Kingdom on April 25, 2012:
Hi Jaye, I don't use any chemicals in the garden either -
I try to be as 'green' as possible!
Thank you for this excellent, informative article and I love your photos, especially the beautiful gerbera!
Voting up/useful and sharing.
Best wishes Lesley
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on April 23, 2012:
Thanks, Penny, for reading my article and for your kind comments.
Penny on April 23, 2012:
What a beautiful surprise!!! Jaye, you have so many talents. The flowers are beautiful.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on April 23, 2012:
I agree with the "less is better" method of lawn care. My yard does tend to take on a "wild and unfettered" look, but if something's growing and blooming there, it doesn't have to be perfect to be lovely, does it?
Wish I could have seen your rhododendrons! There are so many gorgeous colors. One of my neighbors down the block has very large bushes that were filled with masses of the pinkish-lavender blooms when they flowered very early this spring (as flowering shrubs and trees tend to do in my area). I can see her yard from my front porch and enjoy the riot of colorful blooms while they last....I perhaps enjoy them even more than she does because it's like looking at a beautiful picture from my vantage point, and I don't have to do any work!
Thanks for your kind words. Many people already realize the dangers of using "chemical warfare" against lawns and gardens and confine their methods to natural ones. I hope that my words might influence those who haven't given the issue much thought.
Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on April 23, 2012:
We do not use any sort of sprays or chemicals either. In my opinion, yards and gardens are just as lovely growing wild and unfettered. My rhododendrons were gorgeous this year and all we did was trim them back a bot last fall. Even brown patches don't bother me unless it means the lawn is sick.
Your flowers are beautiful and I applaud your efforts to educate people.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on April 22, 2012:
Thanks for your feedback. I think that more and more people are recognizing the wisdom of not using these poisonous chemicals on their lawns. The danger outweighs any advantages.
I'll check out your hub on this topic and get your perspective as someone who's worked in the lawn care industry. I'm glad you read my Earth Day hub, and I appreciate your kind words.
tmbridgeland from Small Town, Illinois on April 22, 2012:
I am with you on this. I am no wild green, but I don't see the sense in using these products on my own lawn. I worked a year for a chemical lawn care service, basically all we did was hose down lawns with weed and bug killers, and fertilizer. I honestly didn't understand it then, I was just young and needed the bucks. None of us guys who worked for that company actually used the service, though we could have for free! I wrote a Hub on a similar theme a while back, but this one is much nicer.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on April 22, 2012:
Thank you, fpherj....You're very kind. I try very hard to be as "green" as I can be; unfortunately, that doesn't extend to my gardening thumb. As stated, when plants bloom in my yard and don't die right away, it's strictly luck!
I truly believe that the ability to grow plants is a talent, because I watched both Mom and my grandmother grow things when I was a kid. They seemed to grow flowers and other plants so effortlessly...sometimes starting with a pinch off another plant that rooted and then thrived as a separate plant.
I don't have that knack, but it doesn't stop me from trying...again, and again....and yet again. Sometimes I do get lucky and enjoy the results. However, I've probably thrown away more dead (and un-revivable) plants than anyone else.
From what I read, more people are going back to the simple ways and doing away with the use of toxins. Now, if we could only stop Agribusiness from poisoning food crops! I signed another online petition to the USDA today, asking them not to approve one of the components of Agent Orange for use as a commercial pesticide. Here's hoping enough people sign this one to make a difference....
Happy Earth Day! JAYE
JOY: Thanks for reading my article, and I'm glad you found it informative.
Joy on April 22, 2012:
Jaye: Wonderfully informative. This may help me out with my gardening. Thanks for all the info and my attention deficit disorder was never distracted!!!!!
Suzie from Carson City on April 22, 2012:
Jaye...You are quite the GREEN thumb....you may even be an entire Green Lady! Good for you. I would like to believe that more people than not, have stopped all use of the toxic products...indoors and outdoors.
It starts with us, though, and you have said it all so extremely well in this hub full of facts and info!! Your yard must be gorgeous. UP++