Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Should've Known By The Smell Of The Chemical Aisle

As a gardener-who-gets-paid for it, I have more of an insider's view of the green industry. Yeah, I know, these days everybody's industry is green, or wants to be, but those of us who mow the grass and plant the trees and sell the chemicals and equipment coined the phrase a long time ago. When I chose this profession over others, my own creed was 'first, do no harm'. I figured gardening was as close to doing no harm as a girl could get. Ever since I've done my best to follow that line, learning as much as I can about what I do, and practicing the least harmful methods to get it done.

In my business you are plied with the easy way to the picture perfect landscape. Throw pre-emergent chemicals in a bed so you don't have to weed as much. Spray shrubs with growth hormones so you don't have to trim as often. Coat roses with powder so the insects and fungi don't leave holes and spots on them. Spray, drench, and dust your way to perfect tomatoes. Keep the lawn emerald green and critter free with weed and feed formulas. Study the picture perfect gardens in the popular magazines, and on the facing page a colorful, cheery ad from the appropriate chemical company will tell us that we, too, can control our mole crickets.

Industry trade magazines, PRO, for instance, or Lawn and Landscape, eventually make their way to even small business owners. They are chock full of really captivating ads, the kind I read from top to bottom. Slick, professional ads, some of the best I've ever seen. Well they should be, as much as the chemical companies they promote spend on them.

Eventually, though, you're forced to make a connection with the stuff they sell and the hazards they represent. Farm workers, exposed. Ground water, polluted. Entire populations of birds, gone. Eventually, the pictures ain't so pretty.

It isn't that I think chemicals are Inherently Bad. It's just that they are foisted upon a follow-the-leader public who is in a pissing contest with itself over Who Has The Greenest Lawn. Do you, by chance, use up the entire bag of weed-n-feed every time you apply it? Just for fun, raise your hand if you have either a half empty bottle of malathion or a half empty bag of Sevin dust on a shelf. If it's been there for more than two years, raise the other hand. Phew! That stinks! Wouldn't it be a nice start if products like that were packaged in single use amounts? That's one place I would opt for more packaging, instead of less.

Rare is the garden center employee who doesn't recommend a chemical solution for a perceived problem. My own clients have shelves that groan under the weight of garden chemicals which they have used once or twice, perhaps, and not always with a clear understanding of what they are trying to accomplish.

Cheery, aren't I? The chemical companies are a particular sore spot for me. On one hand what they are able to produce is technologically marvelous, and useful. On the other hand they have duped US homeowners into believing their products are necessary for life on earth.

Read the damn label, if you are hell bent on using that stuff, and do what the label says. Better yet, enjoy your garden as it is, bug-eaten leaves and all.

Another Play Day

This blogmania won't let me go.

I have GardenRant to thank for this. They've got it going on, and I learn alot by keeping up with their rants.

Thing is, though, I feel like they were my rants first! I mean, I covered a lot of the same ground when I was writing a column for a couple of local small town newspapers, things like plant blindness and the effects of garden chemicals on amphibians and bad mulch and the politics of small engines, and anything else that makes gardening less than the clean blissful euphoric chore it should be. I was supposed to be writing a gardening column, at least that's how I sold it to the editor, but let's face it, some gardening subjects are done to death. I mean, I dutifully covered crape murder, and the seven principles of xeriscape kept me going through the winter. But there is so much else to discuss!

For the record, I am a professional gardener, which means I get paid to do it, which is because mama and daddy wanted a professional something in the family, and gardening is a profession even if it's not medicine or law or teaching. If I were independently wealthy I would garden for free, but since I am a gardener I am not wealthy, so-o...

Hence the name of this blog. Since I
spend a good part of my time on my hands and knees, I am not without attitude. Usually, it's good. Digging and pulling and pruning is peaceful work, no one bothers me much, and I can get lost in a micro world of leaves and insects. Towards the end of summer, though, when the heat index is in the hundred 'teens every day, I do get my surly streaks. And having to stop for groceries after I've been soaked from sweat or rain is humbling. A sense of humor is most important when you're in a public place with dirty knees and fingernails. I keep wanting to design the perfect-for-me tee shirt that would say something like "pardon my dirt, i'm a gardener" or "stand back - gardeners stink" (not that I do, usually) on the back, so the person standing behind me in line will understand.

I've been wanting to write again, and don't always want to jump in to GardenRant's conversations, so maybe this is the best way to get it out of my system. Today is a clear, cold and windy winter day here in North Florida, and I have some free time on my hands. Here goes!