So, I covered red mulch. Let's not revisit that. I used more CAPS writing that piece than I have ever used in my life.
As we approach this Earth Day, I am proud to observe that as a nation, we are raising up our heads and knocking the sand out of our ears. We are experiencing the long-awaited luxury of a fresh start with this new year, this new spring, and this new direction. So much has been collectively happening: new vegetable gardens, demanding responsibly forested lumber, changing incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescents, saying no to plastic bags at the grocery store . . . but what are we doing to address the necessary changes to our lawn and garden protocol? I'm talking about the smaller environment that we live in everyday, the very environment that we the people have most control over: our own backyards.
The issue of paramount importance is the triumvirate of chemical pest control, broad spectrum herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. During the past eight long years, we heardAlfred E. Neuman speak of the 'axis of evil' . . . if only he was attacking these horticultural chemicals, then maybe it would have garnered him a touch of credibility. Alas, we know that story.
Like I referred to in the previous article, major "green industry" companies like Miracle-Gro, Scotts, Monstanto, Ortho, etc. have provided products touted to give you an emerald lawn, to block your lot from trespassing weeds, and to kill every manner of arthropod that dares crawl. Anything but "green", the origin, production, marketing, and gross misuse of these chemicals is a topic that the home gardener must seriously consider.
It is no secret that herbicides and nitrogen-based fertilizers are by-products of the military-industrial complex. Since the 1940's, the residential consumer has been encouraged to use these chemical products around their homes. Our great nation used 2, 4,-D, known to the world as Agent Orange, to defoliate the canopy and eliminate the ground layer of vegetation in Vietnam.
Here come the CAPS:
20 MILLION GALLONS OF DANGEROUS CHEMICALS RAINED DOWN FROM MILITARY AIRCRAFT CAUSING NIGHTMARISH BIRTH DEFECTS THAT ARE STILL BEING REPORTED. I could not bring myself to post images of the children who live with the hideous misfortune of their genetic modification. The power and capacity for destruction of these man-made chemicals is chilling. Let this truth resonate as you pause when reaching for that jug of RoundUp. However safely it can be used, just remember where it came from.
According to the EPA, 95% of the pesticides used on residential lawns are probable carcinogens. If you use pesticides, are you seriously still scratching your head as to why you buried your dog recently? Your children and pets roll all over that green grass, innocent to what serious harm you may ignorantly be putting them in. The fact is this: we are willingly and unwittingly exposing ourselves, our families, and our pets to some really serious chemicals that, for decades, we have taken for granted and blindly accepted as safe.
Your neighbor may never take down those idiotic signs: do you see the image? Who are the pests, us? How f***ed up is it that you can't walk in the space between the street and your house for 24 hours?? How are you supposed to get in?
So, you've given up on the herbicides. Great. You've even stopped spraying your lawn for "pests". Good. But give up on fertilizing? No way.
This is what happens when you apply the "blue stuff": The macronutrients in the bag are made up of soluble salts. If you live in the Northeast, you know that salt eats cars. You know the funny feeling your lips get after eating movie theater popcorn? All things being equal, salts destroy the balance of life in the soil beneath your feet. You want to protect and encourage that soil biology with every action you take. If the soil biology are at healthy levels, it does 100% of your "fertilizing" for you. The billions of microbes that exist under your feet are obviously out for themselves, but also work with amazing synergy to protect the source of food that keeps the soil foodweb alive: plant roots and its exudates.
This co-dependent symbiosis a beautiful life system that endlessly fascinates me. But it's ruined when an overzealous home gardener sprinkles fertilizer down, then throws a few more handfuls for good measure. No one reads directions, and when they do, they are out there on a regular basis with this stuff. Excuse me, but it's bullshit to have to fertilize your plants every two weeks. The result? Lots of green, succulent growth forced from a shallow-rooted plant. A weak plant attracts insect damage. Insect damage attracts your attention and you reach for the pesticide. The pesticide, well, we covered that. What makes man think that they know better than nature? I have no problem trying to encourage the best potential a plant has, but I am saying there is a better way, through culture. Hence, horticulture.
Why are we letting ourselves live like this? Look, we can only change ourselves. Hopefully the ripples of our positive changes will reach the edges of the pond we live in and touch the shores of someone else's. Check out the city of Seattle's page on natural yard care. It will give you the basics to get started, and links for further info.
Look for the 3rd installment of my 2009 wake-up call where I will outline alternative actions for all of the above nasties.
Now is the time--like it never has been time before.
This is a place to get answers and to find new questions. To discover new plants, and new places, and get inspired by eclectic sources. This is where you will find captivating conversation and curious comments. What you'll get is garden saavy ideas and solutions that will make however you garden, glow. With all that I know now, I know I will never know enough. So, without the fluff, but not without the flair, I'm here to break it all down, keeping it fresh in the world of horticulture. Who's ready to roll up their sleeves and GET DIRTY?
I've always had a penchant for plants; innate, perhaps.
Not hardwired to stay inside, I knew that I would spend my life under the sky, hands in the ground, surrounded by green. And that's the way it's been! My horticultural career began humbly working at a local nursery, and have since been classically trained in horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden. Enduring an extremely rigorous program, I graduated with an incredible breadth of knowledge and experience that fed, and continues to feed, my insatiable love of plants.
I have the privilege of maintaining celebrity estates, as well as helping passionate homeowners realize their landscape dreams.
Currently I write, lecture, teach. My partnership, ANTHROPEK Containers + Gardens, is growing successfully.