Lawn & Garden Chemicals Harmful to People, Plants, & Soil
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.
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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