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.

1 comment:

Blackswamp_Girl said...

I am absolutely loving your posts! (Found you via your comment on Garden Porn/Michelle's blog.)

I have to say that as a garden center employee who does NOT recommend chemicals (and who is happy that my bosses do not mind that I am completely honest with their customers when they ask me what I put on my garden)... whenever I tell someone that they don't have to worry about their pulmonaria leaves dying off after bloom, that spittle bugs are mostly harmless, etc., they seriously don't believe me. And I know they go off to our chemical room of death to ask the people there for a second opinion, and sometimes just buy something anyway.

Seriously, it's like when I lost 70-some pounds a few years back. EVERYONE who asked me, "How did you do it?" showed their disappointment when I answered: "Ate more fruits & veggies, and kept to a certain number of calories per day whether I was eating salad or cheesecake. And I walked at least a little bit every day."

It's like if they can't pop a pill, sprinkle a little magic granule, or whatever, they're not interested in hearing any more about how to address a problem. (If there even is one.)

Okay, off my soapbox, too. You totally got me started tonight, though, sorry! :)