Monday, March 20, 2017
I recently received and inquiry from a 7th grade class about their project on natural pesticides in the garden, and here is my reply:
I am delighted to hear that you have a school garden.
I think it is clear from my blog that I do not like artificial, petrochemical, synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc. Here are some of the many reasons why:
1. They often kill more than the target pest: they kill bees, ladybugs and butterflies, and other insects that are beneficial to plants. Bees are in decline, and without them, we loose most of our food crops!
2. In addition, amphibians and reptiles are harmed when these chemicals enter water.
3. These substances can build up in the soil.
4. Soil is pretty important to plant growth, and an important part of the nutrients in soil come from various soil organisms including fungi, that these chemicals kill. When the soil is "dead," you have to rely more and more on chemicals.
5. These chemicals are poorly tested. Many were derived from leftover stocks of nerve agents used during WWII and have never been fully tested. We do not understand their long-term affects. We do know, for example, that people whose job it is to spray lawns often have cell damage, which can lead to cancer and other illnesses.
6. Our standards for approving chemicals are the lowest of developed countries. Lawn and garden chemicals determined to be unsafe in Europe are sold here.
7. Homeowners routinely overuse and misuse these products. Misuse can harm animals, plants and the person using them even more! (If you ever read the label on roundup, the most commonly used yard chemical, you would want to avoid it!)
8. Manufacturing these chemicals is dangerous, and causes pollution.
Sometimes, just doing research and telling people about these dangers will change their behavior.
The only "pesticides" I use are natural, like Surround, a fine clay that pests do not like, mixed with water and sprayed on plants. I use other things too: floating row covers, to keep bugs off my plants; yellow sticky traps to catch cucumber beetles; cardboard collars around the base of my veggie plants to stop cutworms and: beer trays to catch slugs.
What if you made and distributed some cards or posters to homeowners about some simple steps they can use to reduce pesticide use?
One favorite thought I have about weeds: "weeds are plants in the wrong place." Also, did you know that dandelion flowers in early spring often are the only flower to sustain our most important pollinator, bees, until other flowers bloom?
Good luck with your project!