Spray Now!


Those words of urgency arrived by email from a nearby nursery, the culmination of this headline: "Fungus on your
plants’ leaves is much easier to prevent than cure, so spray
now!"  And then came their prescription for "prevention":

For fungus,

Bayer Advanced™ All-In-One Rose and Flower Care
Serenade® Garden
Disease Control
Bonide® Infuse Systemic Disease Control
Bonide® Liquid
Copper Fungicide
Bonide® Fung-Onil Multi Purpose Fungicide

pests are in full effect now as they hatch from their eggs and emerge from  cocoons.
Spray for bagworms on evergreens, lacebugs on azaleas, and
rosebugs, thrips and aphids on roses.

For insects, try:
Bonide® or Ortho®
Systemic Insect Control
Bonide® Eight™ Insect Control
Bayer Advanced™ Rose
and Flower Insect Killer

Well, all this talk of killing and controlling got my attention because it came from a source that’s respected in these parts and I’m even a big fan of their customer education guy, Gene Sumi.  So it was time to do some surfing.

Bayer Advanced’s website wasn’t much help.  I learned that the product is "3 systemics in one" that controls insects and disease and "feeds and renews," whatever that means.  No hint of what the ingredients might be (though if you can find them, let me know).  But one hugely favorable feature is that it requires no spraying, thanks to its systemic route of application, and I warmed considerably to the product on that note.  That’s how odious the job of sprayiInsects3ng is; in my garden it just doesn’t happen, and not because I’m trying to be saintly.  With systemics you just mix some in a watering can and pour.

The site helpfully lists lots of menacing-sounding insects that are done in by the product and I can’t help wondering: What else do they kill?  Or even:  Might these insects play a vital role in the whole web-of-life thing, both for our gardens or for the wider "garden" around us?   Those euphemisms for killing and overfeeding like "protect and feed," "care," "control" sure remind me of the verbiage it’s been my job to sit through in congressional hearing rooms these last decades – assuring while ultimately bullshitting the listener.

Now if you Google "Bonide", the maker of over 300 products in the kill-and-overfeed business, the first site that pops up is Bonideproducts.com, which is funny as hell because it’s the site for communicating with – make that pumping up – their sales force.  So you see suggested points to make, and my reactions thereto:

  • "Fleas have killed more people than all the wars ever fought."  HUH?
  • "Without pesticides world food prodduction would drop by as much as one-third."  I love those "as much as" statistics, don’t you?
  • "Without pesticides, consumer spending on gardening would drop by as much as 40 percent." There it is again!  And what point are they making here, exactly?

Now let’s go to their site for consumers, Bonide.comI take a peek in their "Problemsolver" section and find, not surprisingly, that every condition is caused by some outside menace – an insect or a disease – that needs to be eradicated by one of their products.  Thus, the solution for mold on roses isn’t choosing disease-resistant varieties or siting and pruning for good air circulation. And in the long list of plant "problems" I’m surprised – but shouldn’t be – to find my old friend sedum.  So what on earth could go wrong with sedum?  "Ragged holes on leaves." Gawd no! But we’re in luck because this scourge, caused by snails and slugs, can be wiped out by Bonide’s Slug and Snail Killer.  And so it goes.  Their list of "problems" and "solutions" in the growing of food looks altogether too scary to actually read, so I’ll leave that to readers with stronger constitutions.

Naturally all this brings to mind standard American medical practice for humans, propelled as it is by unfettered free market forces to sell products and procedures, not teach healthy living.

Okay, I’ve referred to the pesticide industry here as "kill-and-overfeed," so you see my bias.  Like so many in the environmentalist camp writ large, my knee jerks against any industry, and chemical industries are a particularly easy mark.  But you know, the most reliable kneejerkers among my friends lumped Gore and Bush together as equally loathesome and supported Nader in 2000, and we all know how well that turned out.

So I’ve determined to keep an open mind and admit that I just don’t know enough to condemn every one of their products.  After all, innocent until proven guilty works pretty well with people, right?  So in future posts you’ll learn what a regular, non-techy potential customer like myself can find out about pesticide products from any source – government, nonprofit, and industry.  Believe me, good information don’t come easy.


  1. This recommendation most likely will work and customers will thank the nursery for solving their problems. People wishing to use organics rather than synthetic pesticides have to be patient and not expect instant results. We all know people want results now and will do just about anything, including the pesticide treatment mentioned. That being said my instinct would be to offer an organic alternative in addition to what they are recommending. Give the customer a choice. The nursery seems to know its customers and they want that advice.

  2. Just as one example, the active ingredient in Bonide is Malathion. According to the studies cited at the Beyond Pesticides website, Malathion is a suspected endocrin disruptor, a neuro-toxin, cause of kidney and other organ damage, a cause of birth and developmental defects, toxic to bird, fish and bees.

    Are you kidding? You would really use this stuff in your yard?

  3. Ed, thanks for tipping me off about Beyond Pesticides, which is on deck for my next post on the subject (under nonprofits). But there you go tipping and scooping again.

  4. And don’t forget the Pesticide Action Network’s database, where you can look up any pesticide by product name or ingredient: http://www.pesticideinfo.org

    I don’t care how many holes my sedums get, it’s not worth surrounding my home with toxic chemicals. And given what’s happening with the bees, I see no justification for using pesticides of any kind in the garden. If the presence of bugs in the outdoors is that distressing, go inside. Harumph.

  5. I planted a rose in a container on my front porch this year. I figured since it was in a container, and it wouldn’t run off into my soil, I war ready to use synthetic fungicides and pesticides if necessary.

    For purely aesthetic reasons, I planted a fairly old-fashioned climbing rose. It hasn’t had so much as a black spot! I had to spray some soapy water on some aphids, but that was it. And it smells *spectacular*.

    Screw stupid hybrid roses. The whole roses-are-difficult-and-require-chemicals thing is a total scam. all it takes is buying roses that aren’t sad shadows of rose-ness.

  6. bravo susan! this is my feeling exactly… it can be so daunting to confront all the industry literature in any subject. with such a high noise to signal ratio, it’s hard to feel like you’re learning anything trustworthy. it’s very hard to keep an open mind and a healthy dose of skepticism at the same time.

  7. This is so well timed. I answered a phone call today at the garden center from a woman who had noticed a few leaves curling on her tomato plants. From my ensuing list of questions for her, I found out that: 1) She looked for and didn’t notice any aphids or other bugs. 2) She decided that the plant might need to be fed or something, so she doused it with miracle-gro. 3) Since she wasn’t quite sure what was wrong with it, she went out and sprinkled some Diazinon on it. Yes, I said Diazinon. She said, “Yeah, I know, I’m really not supposed to have it, but I figure that it would take care of whatever was causing the problem…”

    Seriously. I was speechless.

  8. I believe the fleas killing people reference is toward the balck plague that killed about 75 million people (according to Wikipedia). Very ingenious of them to just drop that in there and not explain that the deaths are from one pandemic, not an ongoing thing.

    I believe Serenade is an organic solution usuing bacteria – just so your readers don’t lump it in with poisons.

    The new Bayer 3 in 1 has a bad reputation with rose growers (even the one that use chemicals faithfully), as it seems to have a negative effect on roses (may just be coincidence that the roses take a nosedive afterwards).

  9. I will probably get blasted for this but I have to admit to using the Bayer product. I don’t like to use pesticides but I haven’t found a natural remedy to the disease problems associated with rose cultivation in Connecticut. As a professional I am torn between having to use them and trying to be a person that makes the environment a better place. One of the problems I have noticed is the more pesticides you use the more you have to use, a vicious circle for sure. I wish I could find a product that just contained a systemic fungicide and not the insecticide.

    Since I have been a professional gardener for about 30 years things have come along way from the first nursery I worked at which used to take all the old pesticides at the end of the year and bury them in a steel drum. I have put an IPM program in place at all my gardens and have been continually trying to find new organic ways to keep the plants healthy and looking good. I have been trying, among other things, to sort the folklore from the science of it. Certainly the garden Blogging community has been helpful in this regard. One of the most important things I have come to is that specie and, in the case of roses, cultivar selection is very helpful in having a healthy garden.

    You can usually find a specimen label for most pesticides. The Bayer label is a PDF on their site and it took a couple of clicks to arrive there. Besides the fertilizer the product contains Tebuconazole and Imidacloprid (Merit). If there isn’t a label on the Internet you can usually request one to faxed or mailed to you from the company.

    I have just planted several new roses in an existing garden of roses. I am going to treat these as ‘organic’ and see what happens. The other roses have been treated with the Bayer product.

  10. Chris, I hope you will give organic another try. In addition to Serenade, an excellent fungicide made from microbes that naturally attack common plant diseases, you can buy a complete organic rose spray kit at Gardens Alive:


    and the company that makes Serenade has many other excellent products–I’ve interviewed the owner and she’s doing incredible work, building a database of microbes that may help fight disease: http://www.agraquest.com/products/index.html

    I think it’s important to remember that organic takes a little time. Every study I’ve ever seen, and every anecdotal report I’ve heard, is that you might see a dip in production and quality the first year, but things will quickly get better and by the third or fourth year, your organic roses will outperform the others and you’ll need fewer and fewer inputs of any kind.

    Also, remember that one assumption of organic is that you tolerate a little crop loss. You pinch off some damaged or diseased leaves or flowers. Think of this as a small trade-off compared with the use of chemicals that could cause cancer or other health problems for your family, your pets, wildlife, etc.

    Of course, switching to other rose varieties or other plants that do better in your area is also part of the solution. I think it’s important for professionals and more experienced gardeners to educate the rest of the world about the importance of being realistic when it comes to plant selection. (that doesn’t mean that we don’t all try to push the envelope, of course!)

  11. True, good information is hard to find. It’s true of organic, earth-friendly options, too. I often see these products with labels that claim to control certain pests or diseases, and they simply don’t work. That’s shameless, too. Right?

    No matter what options we choose, we gardeners must do our OWN homework. Read the label. Be sure of the pest or disease. Get information from gardeners, not marketers.

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