Backyard Battles

00:00 June 26, 2014
By: Debbie Lindsey

 What is it about a weed that strikes fear and terror into the hearts of otherwise calm people? No, I am not referring to the lovable yet politically contentious weed, marijuana. I am talking about those sprouts of green that vie for soil and sunshine alongside our more “high class” plants and grasses. Judging from gardeners’ reactions you’d think these weeds were the devil incarnate sent to attach tendrils about our feet and drag us down into the bowels of hell. “I ain’t scared of some silly little weed,” they might say—but if not, then why do they risk their health and that of their children, pets, and wildlife by dousing those weeds with herbicides such as Roundup.
Just because your mama and everyone you know uses Roundup (and other such weed killers) doesn’t mean it is safe. “But Mrs. Green and her family seem fit as a fiddle, and they use Roundup in their vegetable garden.” Well, what you don’t see is that little Jimmy and his parents are being subjected to possible DNA damage and endocrine disruption—but hey, those tomatoes are looking darn good without those wicked weeds.
Perhaps you have no children or interest in raising edibles but you just want some pretty flowers to brighten your yard. What’s the harm in using an herbicide just to keep things civilized? And why not, for good measure, throw in some pesticide (that’ll teach those ants who’s the boss)? And don’t forget to slather that mosquito repellant all over your body so you can sit outside and admire your beautiful backyard without them damn bugs eating you alive? What’s all the fuss about? Didn’t we grow up running behind the mosquito truck, playing in the foggy mist it created—wasn’t that fun? If they thought it would cause cancer they would never have allowed it—right?
Well there’s quite a bit that can go awry. How about the link between the decimation of bees and butterflies from the use of poisons? How about little Jimmy growing a second head and that unwanted sex change his soon-to-be-born little brother is undergoing? Farfetched? Not completely. Scientific studies of Roundup have shown possible risks to fertility, sperm count, and possible impact to the fetus during the sexual differentiation stage.
Glyphosate is the active toxic ingredient found in weed killers such as Roundup. But wait, there’s more. With this amazing product, brought to you by the likes of Monsanto (same guys that manufactured Agent Orange), are the inert ingredients (solvents and surfactants), that when combined with glyphosate intensifies it just as glyphosate magnifies the inert elements. Back and forth, the active and inert just egg each other on. And even less oversight is given to these cell killing inert sidekicks. All this can put a serious hurt on plant cells — and human cells.
“But I just want to enjoy my backyard.” Well, first off, your yard is actually part of something bigger—think of it like sub-leasing from Mother Nature. Big Mama just might kick your butt if you don’t respect the land. What you do inside your fence has consequences far beyond your property line. Run-off from chemical and fertilizer use affects the quality of groundwaters and nearby lakes and bayous. The butterflies and bees pollinating your flowers are the same ones that pollinate the crops which account for a third of the food we consume. And let’s remember the birds that are threatened by these toxic applications.
Our yards needn’t be science experiments or inadvertently fund chemical and petroleum corporations. Planting, gardening and landscaping does not have to be an all out attack on the environment. For instance, you do not have to contribute to the decimation of our cypress trees (and therefore our wetlands) to mulch. Pine straw is a sustainable product, same goes for leaves. Rake and save. Natural oil sprays, diatomaceous earth, soap, vinegar, salt are all beneficial for pest and weed control. A little research or a talk with an organic farmer will teach you how to use these cheap and safe items. And what about simply exerting a little effort, and pull that damn weed up if it bothers you so much.
Eliminating chemicals and using sustainable products have that added bonus of saving you money. And here are some other nature and budget friendly ideas for your parcel of the great outdoors. Most of my clay pots and planters were rescued from curb-side trash. Instead of going to the landfill, they are recycled and my pay check goes farther. Rather than buy plastic runners to place beneath my gravel or mulch beds to stymie weeds I use newspaper or cardboard. Plastic should be avoided when possible. Ask your neighbors if you might have some cuttings from their sweet potato vines, or ivy or any number of easy to root plants. Most folks will invite you to edge their sidewalk when their St. Augustine lawn runs amuck. These stringers of St. Aug root easily. Propagate your own plants and create more flower pots of begonias and ferns, etc. I have a raised cottage and all along the edges wild ferns sprout up—easy to pull and transplant into my fern garden.
Your back yard shouldn’t be a war zone, a money pit, or a health threat. Treat nature right and maybe she’ll invite you out for a cold beer and a beautiful sunset.

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