Happy Halloween. I hope to really scare you.
Because there ARE monsters. There are things that are truly frightening in our world, and we gardeners are on the front lines, either fighting these forces of evil, or being victimized by them. OR, we stand by and do nothing… and to my mind that is really really scary.
What monsters you ask? Where? Oh come on, YOU KNOW. This is a thin, hackneyed little metaphor I’m using – you get it! The monsters I’m talking about are the substances and practices used in gardening that challenge and diminish the health of our planet. Gardeners of all stripes, from the pro to the homeowners who hobby-garden, are all assailed with propaganda from the Dr Frankensteins of the world to use the products they make in their labs and our gardens will be GLORIOUS! Our blossoms will be huge and too numerous to count, our food crops will be bountiful and robust – we will be the envy of the neighborhood with all those flowers and all that food! And it will be so EASY! Just attach a sprayer full of synthetic chemicals to your hose and spray away; you will be feeding your plants a yummy blue magic potion and in return they will give you more than you ever imagined! How convenient! You get all that wonder and those bragging rights for mere pennies.
(A scene from an upcoming horror film)
Neighbor: walking her pooch, stopping in front of the home of a sweet elderly woman, who is standing proudly among her incredibly flowery and food-laden Rosalind Creasy-esque garden : (Gasp!) “Rosie!, what a BEEE-YOUTIFUL garden! How do you DO it? You have such a green thumb, I’m so jealous!” (dog begins barking at sweet woman, suspiciously)
Gardener: “Why thank you Betty, yes, I just love nature. What can I say, being a gardener is so life-affirming and positive!” … she hides her blue-stained thumbs by shoving them deep into her floral gardening smock and fiddles with her pruners, flashing Betty a winning smile. “Here, have a few Dahlias for your house, and give my love to Ted and the girls!” She hands her neighbor a bouquet of blossoms – flowers full of neurotoxins and excitotoxins.
(side note – I think my little horror film has real potential! Think of it – cast a beloved elderly actress, say Betty White, as the neighborhood gardening lady who everyone admires for her floral and vegetal prowess, and slowly reveal that her garden is only that beautiful because not only does she use the run-of-the-mill poisons like the ones we can buy at most nurseries and big box stores, she is also developing her own MUTANT POISONS to create bigger flowers and more vegetables at the expense of her innocent neighbors who all start developing strange maladies and then start dropping like flies exposed to malathion! NOOOOOOOO!!!! *I run screaming from my computer at the horror of it all*)
Okay I’m back. Yes, there are monsters. The popular ones to hate at the moment are the neonicotinoids because of their deleterious effects on our bee populations, and I am very afraid of those, but I still hold to the classics. The monster I really love to hate has a recognizable name (starts with an R and ends with an UP – but don’t say it three times while you look in a mirror or you might find yourself doubled over with severe gastric distress). This beast is embraced by many. He is insidious. Even some who profess to be organic gardeners use this monster, because what is a little harm when you are going to be doing so much good by making an organic, sustainable piece of permaculture or whatever?
The monster is known by another, more ancient name. Glyphosate. The enemy.
I get it, this is controversial, especially among landscape professionals. I KNOW – I used the monster for years. Before any garden installation, the weed abatement was built into the process – spray existing weedy growth, remove when kill is complete, water until new growth emerges, spray, kill, remove. I’d have a clean substrate to plant in, and the weeds that would emerge during the growing season would be far less able to choke out a baby garden. But at what cost?
– rats fed Monsanto’s maize (roundup ready) developed massive breast tumors in a lifetime feeding study recently published. (glyphosate has estrogenic properties) Most GMO corn is genetically modified specifically to be resistant to the repeated sprayings of glyphosate products and other herbicides.
– European studies show that people in 18 countries have glyphosate in their bodies.
– people living near Argentina’s vast plantations of genetically modified soy are seeing birth defects and rates of miscarriage 100 times the national average.
– inert ingredients in the most popular formulation of glyphosate (ahem) have been found to NOT be inert and to in fact amplify toxicity.
– glyphosate wreaks havoc on possibly the most important life form on the planet, the bacteria which colonize our guts. While mammals don’t have the pathways to take glyphosates directly into our systems, our gut bacteria DO, and it is postulated that this may be one of the causes for increased instances of Celiac’s Disease, food allergies, and other chronic diseases and syndromes.
That’s a BIG PRICE we are paying for convenience.
Now my process for addressing weeds is more labor intensive and yes, it costs more. It takes more time. It isn’t convenient. But my clients are happy that I am not using toxic substances that may negatively impact their health while landscaping their homes. I am not bringing a monster to a garden party.
The readership of Garden Rant is full of garden professionals. Have you committed to ending your association with glyphosate? Because I know we can commit to organic practices and the transition can be fairly smooth – but THIS is where it is hard – not using glyphosate when prepping your site for construction. We must commit to a more labor intensive process with careful weed abatement by manual cultivation before planting and hand-weeding after.
Home gardeners, have YOU committed to truly organic practices? Do you deal with your weeds with boiling water, vinegar, and a little extra muscle or do you simply spritz from a bottle of the Red-Nozzled Boogeyman?
Are YOU the person in the horror movie who goes running into the basement despite the protestations of everyone around you, saying “This is STUPID, there’s no MONSTER in here…”
We all know what happens to that person.
*I prefer not to embed links within my posts. Should you want to read a few pages on the points touched upon, please read: