Faithful readers, I know I promised to talk about great new plants in this week’s post, but a matter of greater urgency cropped up that demands attention. It reminds me of the time I was due to shoot a live gardening spot for local TV, when suddenly I was preempted by an event deemed more newsworthy.
Eight police cars with blue flashing lights were chasing OJ’s Bronco down the freeway.
I could not believe how twisted America’s values were. You mean to tell me you’re more interested in seeing if OJ shoots himself than learning about how to prune a mulberry tree? What is this world coming to?
The Raging Inferno
The issue that preempts “new plants for your garden” is the recent announcement of a new partnership between the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and garden products manufacturer Scott’s Miracle-Gro. I would say the pact has “ignited a firestorm of criticism” from environmental groups, but that phrase has already been used 1,147 times in the last four days and I pride myself in being original.
Instead, the issue has kindled a conflagration of controversy.
Environmental groups that practice 100% organic gardening, eschew all chemicals, and think everyone else should be forced to do the same excoriate NWF for forging an unholy alliance with an “evil” company like Scott’s. A recent posting on the web page of Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens makes this outrageous, over-the-top statement: “[The] fundamental problem with the partnership …is that Scotts Miracle-Gro’s revenues depend almost entirely on selling consumers products to kill wildlife and destroy wildlife habitat.”
Right. Every morning, Scott’s managers open their daily agendas and recite in unison Item 1: “Today I will do everything I can to destroy the Earth and in so doing pad our bottom line.”
Hogwash. (If I didn’t work at Southern Living, I would substitute a common barnyard term for hogwash here, but you get what I mean.)
Before you leap to the conclusion that Grumpy has been bought by Scott’s to defend it, let me address this forthwith. Grumpy gets no $$$ nor anything of material value from Scott’s Miracle-Gro. I do use some of their products, but I do so because I believe they’re safe and effective, and I pay for them.
Grumpy does have a long, one-sided relationship with the company, however. Centuries ago when Grumpy was but a wee lad learning how to garden, our family used Miracle-Gro. That was back when it was called “Stern’s Miracle-Gro,” before Scott’s bought the original company. We used Miracle-Gro on our flowers, vegetables, and other plants for one primary reason. It worked.
I’ve used Scott’s lawn products for a long time too, because they’re high-quality, they work, and I like having a nice lawn. (Sorry, lawn-haters. If you want to live in the forest, in the desert, or on the prairie, feel free. I don’t care. But Grumpy won’t be your neighbor.) I remember that once I was a teenager, I sent in a little card that came with the fertilizer that would bring me seasonal updates on lawn care. I thought that was cool.
Logical conclusion — Scott’s obviously poisoned my mind at a tender age, convincing me to embark upon a misguided career of writing about the joys of gardening. The fiends!
What We Hate About You
The enraged environmental groups are vilifying the new partnership for two reasons. First, Scott’s makes lawn and garden chemicals, which necessarily earns them the title, “Messenger from Satan.” Second, the MFS is now in a position to corrupt and taint a respected environmental organization, the NWF, whose leaders are so malleable and hungry for cash that they’ll abandon their core values to do their new master’s bidding.
Let Grumpy address the first issue. A lot of people out there don’t believe in using any non-natural manufactured pesticide, whether it be insecticide, fungicide, herbicide, whatever. Fine. No problem. It’s a free country and your garden is your own. But I reject the notion that people who choose to use “chemicals” to target specific, hard-to-control pests in a responsible manner are evil. (By the way, organic fertilizers are chemicals too.) I don’t spray Sevin on my vegetables, but I see nothing wrong with zapping the poison ivy on my oak tree with Roundup applied according to directions. So sue me.
Now to THE BIG ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM (hereafter referred to as TBEITR — Grumpy loves anagrams): Roundup (glyphosate). The most successful, most widely used, and most profitable garden chemical ever. Millions of people throughout the country use it every year to control weeds in their gardens. It has been thoroughly tested by government regulatory agencies and found to be safe when used as directed.
Nonetheless, many environmentalists revile Roundup. One reason is that its manufacturer, Monsanto, is the worldwide leader in developing genetically modified crops, such as Roundup Ready corn, wheat, soybeans, and alfalfa, that can sprayed with Roundup to control weeds without killing the crops. Grumpy doesn’t like genetically-modified crops, because there is real danger their engineered genes may wind up in other plants, creating super-weeds that nothing will kill. And he doesn’t like Monsanto’s heavy-handed tactics that involve trespassing on private property to search for Roundup Ready crops the farmer hasn’t paid for.
So how does Scott’s figure into all this? Well, Monsanto licensed Scott’s to sell Roundup for use in home gardens in this country. Important note: Scott’s doesn’t market Roundup to farmers. Monsanto still supplies the farm industry, which sprays tons of the stuff over Roundup Ready fields. Some studies suggest such widespread spraying can harm fish and amphibians, but label directions specifically warn against using Roundup near or on water. Quote: “Environmental Hazards. Do not apply directly to water, to areas where surface water is present, or to intertidal areas below the high water mark.” I think that’s pretty clear.
I’ve also read posts on the web that say Roundup causes miscarriages in farm animals. The charge goes pretty much like this. Cow has miscarriage. New microorganism found in field where cow has miscarriage. Field where miscarriage occurred was treated with Roundup. Conclusion: Roundup responsible for microorganism that caused miscarriage.
Ummmmmm………..maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s a stretch. In any case, I’m not interested in defending Monsanto. My mission is to advise and help home gardeners.
Do You Use Roundup? A Grumpy Survey
To find out how home gardeners across the country use Roundup, I recently posted the following questions on Grumpy’s Facebook page: “How many of you use Roundup in your gardens? Do you read and follow the directions before using it? Do you feel safe using it?”
The responses (and I thank every one of you who took the time to answer) were very interesting. A number of you said you would never use it for any reason. Even more said you do use it for very specific reasons. You use it on weeds that grow in the cracks in your sidewalk and driveway. You use it to kill tough weeds, like poison ivy, English ivy, Johnson grass, and Bermuda grass. You use as little of it as possible and you follow the label directions.
Of course, some of you don’t use it the right way. You say you mix it to double-strength in the belief that if the recommended dosage kills a weed, twice as much kills it twice as good. THIS IS INCORRECT. Roundup kills weeds by being absorbed by leaves and stems and then transported by the plant’s vascular system to the roots. When you double the dosage, you destroy the vascular system before translocation occurs. The chemical never reaches the roots and the weed grows back. SO FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.
Don’t Want No Scott’s People ‘Round Here
A lot of people take the attitude that all those in corporate America are devils. Thus, anyone who works at Scott’s is a devil. And the best way to defeat these devils is to shun them, make them pariahs, and shut off any possibility of civil discourse to avoid contamination.
Hogwash. (Oh nuts! Just dropped the H-bomb again!)
I’ve met some of the people who work at Scott’s. Not the bigwigs, but the rank-and-file. Want to know what they’re like?
Well, they have two eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth, two arms, and two legs. Just like you. They get married and have kids. Just like you. They want their kids to eat the best food, drink the purest water, and get the best education. Just like you. Employees at Scott’s HQ don’t work under a dome supplied with pure, filtered air, while the rest of Marysville, Ohio breathes dirty, industrial air. Scott’s people don’t get special key cards that let them shop in the “Food Not Tainted By Roundup” section of the grocery store. I’m sure not all of them agree with every decision their company makes. But the best place to effect change is from within.
Much of the hostility directed at the Scott’s-NWF partnership comes from supporters of NWF who feel betrayed. After all, why would an organization promoting certified backyard wildlife habitats that forbid the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers get in bed with Scott’s?
The answer is that the goal of the partnership is something NWF very much desires — the success of NWF’s nationwide “Be Out There” campaign that seeks to reconnect children with the natural world, create green spaces that attract wildlife, and foster the next generation of environmentalists. Scott’s financial support furthers this worthy cause.
Critics call Scott’s money dirty money, as if their dollars are made from Roundup. I say a dollar is a dollar, so why not let it do good? Grumpy is reminded of an organization that partners with big business to preserve critical wildlife habitats — the Nature Conservancy. Rather then demonizing the business community, the Nature Conservancy engages them, often convincing them to donate their own property to wildlife sanctuaries. The result is more land that’s protected.
So which do you think is better — more land protected or less land? Hmmmm. I’ll go with more.
Changes at Scott’s
The relationship between Scott’s and NWF is a two-way street. NWF gets needed dollars. In return, NWF affects Scott’s business plan. NWF’s CEO Larry Schweiger points to three positive initiatives. First, Scott’s is developing a full line of natural gardening products. Second, Scott’s is phasing out the use of sphagnum peat moss in its potting soils, because mining peat moss in Canada destroys vital wildlife habitat. Third, and most important, after 2012, Scott’s chemical lawn fertilizers will no longer contain phosphorus. When phosphorus gets into bodies of water, it causes the rapid growth of algae that rob the water of oxygen and suffocate marine life. This decision is a big deal.
As for you lawn-haters out there who condemn Scott’s for promoting environment-killing lawns, I say have you ever considered what a lawn is? It’s a solid mat of mostly leaves and roots. Turfgrass absorbs pollutants and greenhouse gases. It filters out nutrients before they get into water better than even forests do. It traps dirt and dust before you walk it into the house. It provides a beautiful, pleasant surface for recreation. In return, grass releases oxygen for us to breathe and water vapor to cool the air around us. Lawns are a major reason why the suburbs are 6-10 degrees cooler than city centers in the summer.
I don’t agree with everything Scott’s says or does. For example, I don’t like their Bonus S Southern Lawn Weed & Feed, because it contains atrazine, a herbicide that’s a serious water pollutant. I don’t think lawns need to be fertilized any more than twice a year. I think using winterizer fertilizer on Southern lawns is a waste of money, because grass that’s going dormant doesn’t need extra nutrients. And I think any chemical that’s been banned in the U.S. after being judged unsafe should not be sold to other countries with laxer standards.
But am I going to demonize Scott’s and the NWF without talking to them and listening to their side? No way. Shouting your opinion into a mirror doesn’t change anyone’s mind. It does, however, give you a really good look at yourself.
And the Answer Is….
Now to something you’re all dying to know that I briefly hinted at as I began this lengthy diatribe.
Question: When is the best time to prune a mulberry tree?
Answer: Whenever you can find a chain saw.