written by Mike Nowak
I talked to Green Diva Meg in this GD Green Dude episode about how my neighbor destroyed my potential edible yard using toxic chemicals (plus how to avoid them and what you can do to help your neighbors get on board). Listen then read on for my story…
Several years ago, as I was putting together a talk about lawns (hint: the talk was NOT going to be about how your life would change for the better by obsessing about a patch of mowed green stuff in your front yard), I came across these lines on a website called Beyond Pesticides. It started this way:
Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides…
At which point I calmly said, “WHAT??? Whoa, whoa, whoa, WHOA! There are 30 commonly used lawn pesticides? Does Congress know about this? Does OPRAH know about this?”
I have since realized that Congress can’t even keep our bridges from falling down and Oprah doesn’t have a TV show any more. Which means that you’re not going to find a brand new bag of weed and feed under your chair! In case you’re keeping score, that’s a good thing.
But that leaves it up to me–and the average home owner–to figure out what that stuff is that you’re putting on your lawn…and why you’re doing it. The problem is, if I leave it up to the average home owner—like my neighbor—the results are not going to be good.
Um…did you see the sentence a few paragraphs ago? The one that started, “Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides…”?
Well, here’s how the rest of it goes:
…19 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system.
Of those same 30 lawn pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 11 are toxic to bees, and 16 are toxic to birds.
By the way, did you see that list of 30 lawn pesticides?
It includes things like 2,4-D, Benfluralin, Diquat Dibromide (wonderful on raisin bran!), Glyphosate (active ingredient in Roundup, among the top 10 most heavily used pesticides in the home and garden and star of weed-killing commercials everywhere), MCPP (create your own meaning of the acronym here!), Triclopyr, Imidacloprid, Malathion, Thiophanate methyl and Ziram (which was the name of my first parakeet).
Look, I could go on for a few hours about how little most home owners know about the pesticides they use every day but many have been brainwashed by garden product companies to grab the most toxic products off the shelves… but I’d rather have the experts do it for me.
Here are a few websites that you should know about:
I’m sure that there are a ton of other sites out there, but this should get you started. Let me just say that it is my belief, after almost two decades of talking about this on radio, TV and a few other places (my back porch, screaming to no one in particular in the alley), that about 99 percent of the stuff you see or hear advertised on television or radio to make your lawn “better” is garbage. It’s just a way to sell product.
Remember that they call it “weed and feed” because nobody would buy it if they called it “poison and fertilizer.” Be smart. Ask questions. Do your homework. Use compost. And remember that, in terms of what you can do for your little patch of planet, less is more.
My work here is done.
Listen to the latest full episode of The Green Divas Radio Show…
For a decade, he was the host of WGN Radio’s “Let’s Talk Gardening.” In January of 2014, eCycle Best.com named him one of the “Top 5 Male Green Talk Show Hosts on Radio.”
Mike is a writer and award-winning columnist for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine. He is also the author of Attack of the Killer Asparagus, published in 2014 by Around the Block Press.
Mike is an Illinois Master Gardener and Openlands TreeKeeper. In 2002, he co-founded the Midwest Ecological Landscape Alliance and served as MELA’s president for four years. He recently retired as president of the Chicago Recycling Coalition. And, yes, he sings a little bit, especially during the holidays, as part of the caroling group, The Frozen Robins.