I was making the rounds of a local garden tour recently, when I fell into a conversation with a fellow environmentally-conscientious gardener about methods for removing lawns in favor of drought tolerant plants. His comment caught my attention: “Well, I could just use Roundup. They say it’s harmless.”
It’s a common sentiment, even though the product is made by the company responsible for one of the most effective de-foliants ever invented, Agent Orange.
Here's a recent New York Times article aboutsuperweeds--unwanted plants that have developed resistance to herbicides like Roundup (glyphospate), much as superbacteria have been created in response to antibiotic overuse.
In spite of my fondness for some “weeds,” the idea of a plant that grows 3” a day, reaches 7’ in height to compete with crops and actually damages harvesting equipment is not my idea of desirable.Nor are farmers too fond of such unflappable freaks of botany.
Monsanto (producer of Roundup) and their competitors have engineered a perfectly closed cycle in which they supply both thegenetically modified seedsand the herbicides that ensures that these monoculture seeds will proliferate.
When this system breaks down, agribusiness is at the ready with yet a new chemical/seed.
AsMichael Pollan germanely notes in his response to the NYT article above,“…the effectiveness of Roundup lasted almost exactly as long as its patent protection.”
In addition to creating a market dependency and guaranteed revenue stream for themselves to the detriment of local and global sustainability and diversity, these companies will sue the wellies off of farmers who happen to save seed (it’s THEIR patented seed, they claim) and drag into court, cart and horse, even those farmers who have never used their seed, but whose crops have been inadvertently contaminated via wind or cross pollination with their genetically modified (patented) plant material.
The third world market has beenespecially profitable for them. But that's a topic for another day.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, an environmentalist visionary and activist, sums up the big picture:
On an optimistic note, it seems that the idea of letting a few weeds coexist might be catching on, at least in the home-grown sector, judging from the response to a recent NYT editorial,The Dandelion King.
The readers' responses about "grass" to this article (mine included) are as impassioned as the writer's. While grass-lovers seem to be in the minority here, when there is a negative response, it’s almost like those weed-lovin’, grass-hatin’ folks are plain un-American and sworn enemies of life, liberty and lawns.
Quite ironic when you consider that the lawn as we know is a British import!
So, before we pick up our next bottle of easy-spray glyphospate, we might ourself how much we really need that dandelion to be vanquished.
Try boiling water, weed torches, landscape cloth with at least 2" of mulch, vinegar and/or salt (only in the appropriate situation!), hand weeding tools* and other more judicious methods instead.It all sound rather medieval, doesn't it? But then not much has changed in the war against weeds when not armed with Roundup. Except perhaps our lack of tolerance for these maligned plants. For more wicked weeds, such as poison ivy, oak or sumac, go to this site for the benefits and downfalls of different removal methods.
If you do use a chemical spray, the dead plant material from these nasties still contains the active oil urushiol which causes the painful reaction.
And keep in mind, a superweed poison oak is verily the stuff of nightmares!
*This is a hoe, an ancient and practical weeding tool. Well, not too practical for 1000 acres, but pretty good for a modestly-sized backyard.
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JESSICA AHNERT DAVIS is founder of Nest Studio and The Nest Studio Blog. Jess manages a career as an interior and hardware designer, and, in her spare time, raises her three year old son Bryan, 9 month old Lucy, and her nearly-adult husband, Scott. Having grown up in both Hong Kong and Dallas and subsequently lived in New Jersey, Boston, Brooklyn and Los Angeles, Jess draws from a wide range of design inspiration - if something creates drama, adds texture, feels local, provides quiet sophistication, and occasionally sparkles, it will likely be dear to her heart.
By day CORI MAGEE is a Designer, Art Director and Blog Manager for a trio of home furnishing companies. She also works as a freelance Graphic Designer when she's not contributing on design blogs or rambling on her own blog, Pretty Haute Mess. Cori currently lives in Los Angeles, though she is always in the process of convincing her husband to move to NYC and Sweden - one for the bagels and the other for the modern design scene. Visit Cori on her blog Pretty Haute Mess, where she writes about design + inspiration + random stuff, or for a dose of Cori on a daily basis, you can visit her on Twitter.
JAIME TOLLAS was born and now lives in San Francisco, where she and her husband are raising two crazy kids, an elementary-aged son and a preschooler daughter. They all inhabit a two-bedroom apartment in a high-rise in the Financial District, and spend a lot of time riding the elevator, building Legos, finding new monkey bars to tackle in hundreds of city playgrounds, and cruising the waterfront with the stroller, snagging samples from the Farmer's Market and searching for seals (which are everywhere) and sharks (which, mercifully, never materialize). When not chasing her kids, Jaime works as a non-profit fundraising strategist, and acts as chief content director for the online magazine postmodyrn which she co-founded in 2014. She chronicles the working-mama madness on her blog Less on the Floor, and indulges her serial stylin'-mama obsession here, at Nest Studio.
JESSICA BURNE DAVIS is the sales/marketing/operations/jack-of-all-trades for Nest Studio LLC. Born in New York, moved 7 times before the age 19, Jessica is now happily rooted in New Jersey with her husband and two daughters. Her love for art and design began as a young girl building Barbie dream house additions using reclaimed materials. Always practical, Jessica then rented out the space to her pesky younger brother. In adult life, her career followed a similar path combining her degree in Finance with her passion for the arts as a Vice President in JPMorgan’s Private Bank Art Advisory group. Outside of work, Jessica can be found devouring a good book, working on home improvement projects, and practicing, unsuccessfully, to master a side crow in yoga.