Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Safe Lawns.org Blog
Book Excerpt: Here’s The History of Clover’s Demise as a Lawn Plant
nor of St. Patrick’s Day, I always like to espouse the virtues of clover, once considered the greatest lawn plant of all because it’s low-growing, evergreen, drought tolerant and manufactures its own fertilizer by storing atmospheric nitrogen on its roots (see photo). I also highly recommend watching this video, which features my friend and colleague, Roger Swain, offering an historical essay about clover: http://www.safelawns.org/
I also offer up an excerpt of an as yet untitled book by yours truly, which will be published soon, about the history of lawn chemicals in North America:
IN THE AGE OF MODERN commerce, almost everyone understands the desire to turn a profit. In the world of horticulture, however, I have found another motivation to be most often predominant. From the rose breeder who tries for years to cross-pollinate the perfect pink bloom, to the pumpkin grower who is aiming to nurture a 1,500-pound behemoth for first prize at the county fair, nearly every gardener, professional or amateur, desires most of all to be first. The bragging rights, ultimately, are worth more than any amount of cash.
So it was with Dr. Reginald Milton Carleton, the head researcher for the Vaughn Seed Company of Chicago. Author of numerous horticultural books and enormously respected by his peers, Carleton was often quoted espousing one breakthrough or another in vegetables and flowers. Though he was never considered a wealthy man, he apparently went to his grave at age 87 believing he had been personally responsible for one of the greatest gardening discoveries of all — and the product that would be at the epicenter of a Canadian firestorm in the generations to come.
Art Drysdale knew Carleton well, easily recalling a decades-old encounter with his friend and mentor as if it happened yesterday. Then an aspiring author and entertainer, Drysdale was the young Canadian buck with a booming voice and bigger personality, yet he was content to play wallflower in the presence of two titans of his industry. His companions for the early March evening of 1962 were John Bradshaw of Toronto, host of Canada’s most popular gardening radio show, and “Milt” Carleton, a most coveted local dinner guest during the annual Chicago Flower Show at McCormick Place.
Carleton was a proud member of the prestigious gentleman’s club known as The Cliff Dwellers, which still operates today from atop the office building at the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue at Adams Street on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. In those days, The Cliff Dwellers was still perched above Symphony Center and provided a fashionable venue for an annual debate about the origins of fine wine.
“We get there first, appropriately dressed, and in strolls Milt in his three-piece suit,” recalled Drysdale during our conversation in 2008. “Right away the two of them begin their customary argument. For Bradshaw, the wine had to be French to be considered any good; Milt was a promoter of the wine from California. So Milt, of course, tells the waiter to bring both bottles to the table. ‘We’ll see if you can really tell the difference,’ he says to Bradshaw.
“When the wine bottles arrive Milt challenges him to a taste test. ‘But before I have any wine,’ he says, ‘I need to have my 2,4-D.’ And out comes a little flask from his inside suit pockets. He takes a big swig of it. You could tell right away it was 2,4-D because of the smell. He pronounces, proudly, ‘I do that every day! I’m not afraid of the stuff!’”
By then, it had already been 15 years since Carleton had introduced a synthetic chemical plant-growth regulator known as 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid to the American gardening public. Developed during World War II at Rothamsted Experimental Station in Hertfordshire, England, the product was originally brought to the world’s agricultural market to kill weeds in crops that belong to the grass family including wheat, corn and rice. By allowing the good plants to live, yet causing the undesirable plants to die overnight, 2,4-D instantly spawned one of the greatest perceived advances in farming technology in a generation.
That almost paled by comparison, though, to revolution that 2,4-D would bring to the North American back yard. Milt Carleton immediately saw its potential, as detailed in a personal letter to Art Drysdale in December of 1979:
“I probably know more about the history and use of this chemical than anyone alive. Dr. Franklin D. Jones, who discovered its phytochemical
properties and patented its use as a control for unwanted plants, walked into my office right after WWII. He said he had a marvelous weed killer for driveways! My answer was, ‘Frank, we have plenty of chemicals that will do that — even old crank case oil will do the job. What we need is a better control for crabgrass!’ ‘Unfortunately,’ he replied, ‘it doesn’t do too good a job on grasses.’ This set me to thinking — if it doesn’t kill crabgrass, maybe it won’t kill bluegrass, which proved to be true when I ran tests. That was the birth of modern selective weed killers.”
By bringing 2,4-D to the lawn industry, Carleton had simultaneously instigated a gold rush and a controversy that is still raging six decades later. He was immediately a hero to his employers, the descendents of John Charles Vaughn, who had suddenly become manufacturers of one of the hottest commodities ever to hit suburbia. The Vaughn family’s largest wholesale customers soon became the heirs of O.M. Scott, a hardware store owner who had been professing a “white-hot hatred” of weeds since the 1860s. The Scotts Company had long since carved a market niche by selling the Ivory Soap standard of grass seed: 99.8 percent pure and free of weeds. This new weed killer, however, had the clever marketers working overtime by the end of the war.
In 1948, advertisements for Scotts’ new product, “Killex,” began appearing in Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies Home Journal, Horticulture and other magazines of the day. Comely barehanded homemakers were depicted sprinkling Killex onto their lawns to remove dandelions, plantain, chickweed and 50 or so other so-called weeds. Soon after, an even more popular amalgamation emerged. When the first bag of Scotts Weed ’n Feed rolled off the conveyor belts at the Scotts headquarters in the central Ohio town of Marysville, it changed the very nature of lawn care. Instead of applying fertilizer in one pass and weed killer in another, homeowners and gardeners could now put down weed ’n feed to do both jobs at once — usually across the entire lawn — thereby creating an explosion for the demand for Milt Carleton’s new miracle acid.
The fact that 2,4-D smelled acutely toxic, ironically, was not the first big dilemma facing the product. Early activists rallied because Killex and Scotts Weed ’n Feed eradicated the clover that theretofore had been North America’s favorite lawn plant. Since it was evergreen, drought-tolerant, low-growing and capable of manufacturing its own fertilizer by attaching nitrogen from the atmosphere to its roots, clover had been a part of virtually all seed mixes ever since Americans began consciously cultivating lawns. No matter how hard Carleton and others tried, though, they couldn’t come up with a formulation of 2,4-D that allowed the clover and grass to live in harmony. The issue was acknowledged in Carleton’s 1957 book titled A New Way to Kill Weeds:
“The thought of white Dutch clover as a lawn weed will come as a distinct shock to old-time gardeners. I can remember the day when lawn mixtures were judged for quality by the percentage of clover seed they contained. The higher this figure, the better the mixture. . . I can remember the loving care which old-time gardeners gave their clover lawns. The smug look on the face of the proud homeowner whose stand was the best in the neighborhood was really something to behold.”
The clover quandary was deftly handled by the same marketers who had, seemingly overnight, made the phrase “weed ’n feed” part of American vernacular. In this case, clover was re-branded as a weed by use of the oldest promotional ploy in the book: manufacturing fear. Clover, you see, attracts bees by the thousands when the flowers bloom in mid summer. Bees, claimed the deft advertisements, sting children. Young mothers took note and, within a generation, clover was gone from most seed mixes. Soon, the three- and four-leafed plants, just like the bees, were disappearing from lawns.
As for those pesky and persistent claims that exposure to 2,4-D also carried other side effects — among them diarrhea, blurred vision, respiratory irritation, confusion, numbness and tingling, bleeding from the nose and chemical hypersensitivity — they were quickly cast aside by a hearty gulp in clear public view. The man who had effectively launched the weed ’n feed industry utterly scoffed at the notion that his product was harmful to human or environmental health.
“It’s safe enough to drink,” said Milt Carleton, time after time and day after day. Like the proudly defiant cigarette smoker who lives a long life despite a pack-a-day habit, he was a poster boy for the weed killer that remains vastly popular. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates more 16 million pounds of 2,4-D are applied to home lawns, parks and golf courses annually; the product’s use continues to increase each year everywhere in North America, except Canada.
“It was a religion to Milt,” chimed his friend Drysdale. “I don’t think Milt ever made any real money from 2, 4-D, but it was still his baby and he defended it to his death. Well into old age he would drive himself every summer from Chicago to Maine, and then later on to Florida. The stuff didn’t seem to hurt him a bit.”
Before we ended our conversation, I did have to ask Art Drysdale one further question: Had he ever taken a drink of 2,4-D himself?
“No,” he said, “I can’t say as I have.”
NOTE: Art Drysdale is still a devout critic of the organic lawn revolution and a proponent of chemical weed killers such as 2,4-D.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Why use white clover in your lawn?
#1. It is lush and emerald green and has great street appeal. Clover stays green when grass turns brown during dry periods.
#2. Less fertilizer - Clover adds nitrogen to the soil so there is less need for fertilizers.
#3. Less mowing time - A clover lawn rarely needs mowing.
#4. Deters chinch bug - No need for toxic chemical pesticides, when you plant clover, chinch bug populations decrease.
#5. Clover is sweetly scented and attracts beneficial polinators to the garden which helps your other flowering and fruiting plants.
#6. Clover can withstand more foot traffic without getting harmed like grass.
#7. Clover is more tolerant of pet urine.
#8. Clover will help choke out other garden "weeds" and moss.
#9. Clover does not need as much water.
#10. You can spend more time enjoying the summer with friends and family as you will not need to be tending to the grass and your garden will be safe to enjoy without the use of toxic insecticides & herbicides.
Learn more about growing clover:
http://goorganicgardening.com/soil/keep-that-white-clover-in-your-lawn Blog Gadgets
Friday, March 11, 2011
"Across the country, on any given day, while an unknowing homeowner is at work, licensed pesticide applicators drive their trucks into neighborhoods, spraying trees and bushes, unleashing gallons of toxic chemicals into the air. Those that know the trucks will be coming brace themselves and close their windows. Others, who didn't know they were coming, leave their windows open and their organic vegetables uncovered. At the end of the day, the only visible evidence of this trespass of toxic chemicals is the little yellow flag on their neighbors lawn. Most of us have seen these flags so many times we no longer pay attention.
Many people do not notice anything when they are exposed, but the toxins are there and they are stored. Chemically sensitive people are the canaries in the coal mine. Their bodies react immediately and they get sick. ..."
For more information on pesticides go to beyondpesticides.org. Blog Gadgets
Thursday, March 10, 2011
In April 2010, the city of St. John’s asked its residents to refrain from using cosmetic pesticides. The advisory would continue until the government of Newfoundland and Labrador would enact their own—or allow municipalities to enact—regulations regarding cosmetic pesticide use.
Since that time, the call for a ban has grown in strength, and with new Environment Minister Ross Wiseman in place, the people of NL are looking for some action on the pesticide issue.
The term pesticide encompasses all insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other pest-control substances. Anything from fly repellent, to rat poison, to any other product used to destroy or prevent a pest is considered a pesticide.
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, pesticides are toxic to an abundance of life forms. They are not specific to certain pests and can harm helpful insects, such as ladybugs, which are predators of aphids—the enemy of any gardener.
Also, pesticides don’t stay on your lawn, but in runoff, can eventually make it to streams, lakes, or the ocean. This runoff brings harmful toxins in contact with fish and other wildlife, and also may enter drinking water.
Some pesticides contain known cancer causing agents, while still others are suspected to contain these substances. Pesticide use has been linked to a number of health conditions in humans. A study by M. Sanborn et al. of the College of Family Physicians in Canada, entitled Non-Cancer Health Effects Of Pesticides, claimed pesticides may also cause neurological effects, birth defects, and other harmful effects.
In 1962, the book Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, first made the public aware of the dangers of organochloride insecticides, such as DDT. It was found that residues from these pesticides persisted in the food chain, accumulating to reach higher concentrations at higher trophic levels. They were found to be the cause of population losses among various birds of prey, including the peregrine falcon, due to the thinning of its eggshells. Though many countries have banned these pesticides, they are still used in some parts of the world.
The Second Silent Spring? by John R. Krebs et al. states that 116 species of bird throughout Europe are now threatened due to the use of various pesticides.
MUN Botanical Garden employs a minimal use policy when it comes to pesticides. “We only use slug bait now and then. We use insecticidal soap in the greenhouse. That's it,” said Todd Boland, research horticulturalist at the garden.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, biologically-based pesticides, such as pheromones and microbial pesticides, which are gaining popularity, are safer to humans and other organisms than traditional chemical pesticides.
On Jan. 13, the Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides-Newfoundland and Labrador created a petition for the banning of non-essential, or cosmetic, pesticides. The petition can be read and signed at www.gopetition.com/petition/42016.html. Blog Gadgets
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Environment Minister has had enough time to review cosmetic pesticides | NDP Leader Lorraine Michael
"NDP Leader Lorraine Michael (Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi) says the Minister of Environment and Conservation, Ross Wiseman, has had sufficient time to review the issue of cosmetic pesticide use in Newfoundland and Labrador and she is asking the Minister to decide in favour of the many groups who are proposing a full ban and introduce the appropriate legislation this spring...." Blog Gadgets
Friday, March 4, 2011
As a physicians’ organization with over 5,000 members, we are delighted that Environment Minister Ross Wiseman is considering a lawn pesticide ban.
During his deliberations, we urge Wiseman to remember that such a ban is supported by the most respected health organizations including the Canadian Cancer Society, the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, the Association of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Lung Association.
As well, polling done in 2009 by CRA Atlantic Quarterly found a lawn pesticide ban is supported by nearly seven out of 10 Newfoundland and Labrador residents.
The poll also found that 76 per cent of residents believe pesticides threaten children’s health, while 72 per cent feel pesticides threaten the environment.
Health professionals and the general public are in agreement: Newfoundland and Labrador should follow the other Atlantic provinces and ban these toxic chemicals at the earliest opportunity.
Don’t children in this province deserve the same protection as children in P.E.I., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia?
Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Used in gardens, farms, and parks around the world, the weed killer Roundup contains an ingredient that can suffocate human cells in a laboratory, researchers say...
Used in yards, farms and parks throughout the world, Roundup has long been a top-selling weed killer. But now researchers have found that one of Roundup’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.... Blog Gadgets
Pesticides wreak havoc on reproductive health in men
(NaturalNews) Reports from European countries have found sub-fertile semen quality in 1 out of 5 young men ages 18 to 25. Research has also shown increasing rates of testicular cancer, un-descended testes in babies, and other hormone-related problems in men. Fertility and reproductive health is declining in men and has been over the last 50 years according to recent reports. The cause of this decline in health is multi-factorial, but research continues to expose agribusiness chemicals as potent hormone disruptors. The evidence of declining male reproductive health in connection with commonly used agricultural chemicals is found in a host of scientific research that has spanned decades.
Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/031568_pesticides_reproductive_health.html#ixzz1FZ2V0Xmj Blog Gadgets
St. John's Daily Spray Advisory
My Past Articles
More enforcement needed for pesticide spray regulations
The Western Star (Corner Brook) - Final - 10-01-2002 - 413 words
Karen Griffin - Judie Squires says someone needs to patrol the companies that spray residential areas for pesticides because she's observed nine violations of the Environmental Protection Act in her Paradise neighborhood alone…
Spray woes: Province falling down on monitoring pesticides
The Telegram (
Judie Squires - environment to become poisoned? A temporary ban on all residential pesticides has to be put into place, to protect us, our wildlife and our environment as a whole. Judie Squires
Government lax on cosmetic pesticide regulation: advocate
The Telegram (
Stokes Sullivan, Deana - Despite increased awareness about adverse health effects from pesticides, Judie Squires, a member of the Pesticide Working Group of
Woman doesn't expect cosmetic pesticide ban any time soon
The Western Star (Corner Brook) - 08-30-2004 - 712 words
Stokes Sullivan, Deana - Despite increased awareness about adverse health effects from pesticides, Judie Squires, a member of the Pesticide Working Group of Newfoundland and Labrador, isn't optimistic that the province will ban the…
Province lagging behind in pesticide control
The Telegram (
Squires, Judie - it to do is to prohibit the cosmetic use of synthetic pesticides altogether in order to protect our citizens and the environment. Judie Squires writes from Portugal Cove-St. Philip's…
The two sides to pesticide use
The Telegram (
Judie Squires - health of your families. When
Inquiry implicates BTk
The Telegram (
DEANA STOKES SULLIVAN - of trees. The live spores can be inhaled by humans and animals exposed to BT. Judie Squires, secretary of the Northeast Avalon Group of the Sierra Club, says despite claims that…
Delayed pesticide laws 'disappointing'
The Telegram (
DEANA STOKES SULLIVAN - at the end of this year. These products will only be sold to certified dealers. Judie Squires, secretary of the newly formed Northeast Avalon Group of the Sierra Club, isn't…
Above Articles available through Trancontinental Newsnet
Time for provincial lawn pesticide regulation
The Telegram (
pesticides. Please join me in lobbying our province for a pesticide ban Judie Squires Portugal Cove...