Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer is here!

Well it's been a while since I posted last. My computer is on the fritz, and I stay pretty busy so, that's all I am going to say on it.

As you might have noticed, the temps are really climbing and your plants might be showing the stress from it.
Most established lawns, trees, and shrubs will survive a hot summer just fine with little or no irrigation, provided there is not drought. This year we have seen a return to relatively normal rainfall, so the plants we want to concentrate on are our veggies and flowers.

First and foremost, all plants need mulch, in nature, mulch is in the form of leaves, pine needles, limbs, twigs, dead grass, and animal waste. Mulching around your trees and shrubs with wood chips, pine straw, or even the leaves you rake off your lawn, aid in retaining moisture in the ground. What ever material you chose to use, it should never be "green." Never use freshly chipped wood as it will rob nitrogen from the soil as it dries and first begins to decompose, wood chips should be in a state of active decay when used as mulch. Flowers and veggies are best mulched with pine needles, hay, or straw. Be sure to have plenty or organic compost mixed in the soil before mulching these delecate plants.

When comes to your water source, be conservation minded. Make water from the municipal system (or even a well) a last resort. Utilize rain barrels, A/C condensation, or dehumidifiers, and there will be plenty of H2O for your garden.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Dead shrubs lead to lawn-care dispute -

So is really worth the cost to have chemicals applied to your lawn? Especially by a large company who have little to no concern over one customer.
Dead shrubs lead to lawn-care dispute -

Posted using ShareThis

Saturday, May 8, 2010

SFG Progress

Well I'm making progress on the Square Foot Garden (SFG). I now have one bed that is 4 feet wide and 8 feet long. My planting soil is 1 part peat moss, 1 part vermiculite, and one part compost. My compost is homemade and so it is superior to the compost sold in stores. The compost provides the nutrients, the peat moss gives added water retention, and the vermiculite keeps it loose so excess water will drain and  will allow for natural aeration.

So far, my only crop is tomatoes but it won't be for long. I'll soon be adding basil, oregano, and cilantro as companion crops. My plan is to apply SFG principles to a full scale farming operation. This will eliminate the NEED for plowing, fertilizing, as well as reduce the dependence on irrigation. It also allows me to grow more crops in less space. I hope to add a hoop house so that I can extend my growing season.

Looks like the rain has stopped so now I can get busy preparing my next bed.

Square Foot Garden

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Black Gold

That's right, BLACK GOLD! No, not petroleum, compost. I had a huge pile of leaves and other vegetative waste I cleaned out of someone's back yard about a year ago. When I say huge I do mean HUGE! Now the pile is about a fourth of the size after natural decomposition with a lot of help from a colony of worms who took up residence. So now I have a good amount of the best garden fertilizer there is. I estimate it is composed of at least 75% worm castings, which is awesome.
"What's so awesome about that?" you might say. Worm castings, i.e. worm manure, has more nutrients than any other animal manure. It's like the ultimate performance enhancing supplement for plants. The best part is it's all natural and organic, not to mention it kept a large amount of waste from being deposited in a landfill, or polluting our air with smoke.
So the next time you need to clean up the yard, don't toss it out or burn it! Compost it. Just pick out a corner in your yard and start a compost pile. You can help speed up the process by chopping it up with a lawn mower and turning the pile over every couple of weeks. You can add your veggie and fruit scraps as well. Some other stuff you can compost are coffee grounds w/ filter, tea bags sans staple, crushed egg shells (not eggs), shredded news paper, rice, bread and cereal. Be sure not to add meat, bones or oils as it will stink and attract scavengers like raccoons, cats, and dogs. 

Sifting frame on top of a wheel barrow.
Unsifted compost.
Sifting out the sticks, twigs and other material not composted.
Hey! A worm!
Finished compost. Ready to be spread in the garden or on the lawn.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Top Ten Benefits of Organic Lawn Care

So what are the benefits of switching to an organic lawn care program? Here's the Top Ten List from

1.) Safety, for humans, animals, insects and the planet

2.) Better Health, for humans, animals, the lawns and the planet

3.) Water Conservation & Preservation, since water does not often become contaminated in organic systems, which also require less water than synthetic programs

4.) Soil Health & Sustainability, since organics builds organic matter and life within the soil

5.) Pest Reduction, since insects tend to be more attracted to out-of-balance synthetic systems

6.) Resource Conservation, since synthetic fertilizers are derived from fossil fuels and organic systems encourage recycling, and because organic systems emphasize less mowing

7.) Financial Savings through time, since organic systems become more independent as the soil is improved

8.) Environmental Preservation, including a reduction in greenhouse gases and global warming

9.) Noise Reduction from decreased reliance on power equipment

10.) Environmental Awareness from the organic practioners, who don’t rely on “four-step plans” and instead tend to become stewards of the land.

And here's another way to put when comparing an organic lawn care program to a chemical program. What is your first impression when you see a sign like this posted on a lawn? How can someone honestly say their service is safe, when they must by law post a sign like this in a yard they've just treated? I am proud to say, that no lawn I treat needs any such signage. My customers can rest assured that my products and services are 100% safe for their children, pets, and evironment.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Worth the risk?

Are you willing to risk the health or even lives of your children just because the manufacturer of a chemical says it's safe?

The companies who manufacture pesticides say their products are safe, so long as they are used properly. My question is, how can we ensure their "safe" usage? A dozen years ago, EPA scientists urged the restriction of the use of phosphine. A coalition led by the tobacco industry, supported by other agriculture interests, including the USDA, fought the restrictions.
Tragically, two little girls died last week after this pesticide was used around their home by an exterminator. The good thing to come out of this is the restrictions recommended so long ago are finally going to be enacted, but what a terrible price.
Here are links to the news article and a blog post by

But what about stuff like Roundup they sell at Home Depot, Lowes, & Wal-Mart? This product is manufactured by Monsato, and most commonly distributed by Scotts/MiracleGro, has been spread all over American lawns and landscapes, totaling over 100 million pounds. Did you know that when you spray that dandelion in the crack on your sidewalk, you are exposing yourself, your pets and your children to the chemicals for at least a few months?
Read the following publication from Environmental Health News, by Crystal Gammon.

Used in yards, farms and parks throughout the world, Roundup has long

been a top-selling weed killer. But now researchers have found that

one of Roundup’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly

embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.

The new findings intensify a debate about so-called “inerts” — the

solvents, preservatives, surfactants and other substances that

manufacturers add to pesticides. Nearly 4,000 inert ingredients are

approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, is the most widely used

herbicide in the United States. About 100 million pounds are applied

to U.S. farms and lawns every year, according to the EPA.

Until now, most health studies have focused on the safety of

glyphosate, rather than the mixture of ingredients found in Roundup.

But in the new study, scientists found that Roundup’s inert

ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at

concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.

One specific inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA,

was more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells

than the herbicide itself – a finding the researchers call


“This clearly confirms that the [inert ingredients] in Roundup

formulations are not inert,” wrote the study authors from France’s

University of Caen. “Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on

the market could cause cell damage and even death [at the] residual

levels” found on Roundup-treated crops, such as soybeans, alfalfa and

corn, or lawns and gardens.

The research team suspects that Roundup might cause pregnancy problems

by interfering with hormone production, possibly leading to abnormal

fetal development, low birth weights or miscarriages.

Monsanto, Roundup’s manufacturer, contends that the methods used in

the study don’t reflect realistic conditions and that their product,

which has been sold since the 1970s, is safe when used as directed.

Hundreds of studies over the past 35 years have addressed the safety

of glyphosate.

“Roundup has one of the most extensive human health safety and

environmental data packages of any pesticide that’s out there,” said

Monsanto spokesman John Combest. “It’s used in public parks, it’s used

to protect schools. There’s been a great deal of study on Roundup, and

we’re very proud of its performance.”

The EPA considers glyphosate to have low toxicity when used at the

recommended doses.

“Risk estimates for glyphosate were well below the level of concern,”

said EPA spokesman Dale Kemery. The EPA classifies glyphosate as a

Group E chemical, which means there is strong evidence that it does

not cause cancer in humans.

In addition, the EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture both

recognize POEA as an inert ingredient. Derived from animal fat, POEA

is allowed in products certified organic by the USDA. The EPA has

concluded that it is not dangerous to public health or the


The French team, led by Gilles-Eric Seralini, a University of Caen

molecular biologist, said its results highlight the need for health

agencies to reconsider the safety of Roundup.

“The authorizations for using these Roundup herbicides must now

clearly be revised since their toxic effects depend on, and are

multiplied by, other compounds used in the mixtures,” Seralini’s team


Controversy about the safety of the weed killer recently erupted in

Argentina, one of the world’s largest exporters of soy.

Last month, an environmental group petitioned Argentina’s Supreme

Court, seeking a temporary ban on glyphosate use after an Argentine

scientist and local activists reported a high incidence of birth

defects and cancers in people living near crop-spraying areas.

Scientists there also linked genetic malformations in amphibians to

glysophate. In addition, last year in Sweden, a scientific team found

that exposure is a risk factor for people developing non-Hodgkin


Inert ingredients are often less scrutinized than active pest-killing

ingredients. Since specific herbicide formulations are protected as

trade secrets, manufacturers aren’t required to publicly disclose

them. Although Monsanto is the largest manufacturer of glyphosate-

based herbicides, several other manufacturers sell similar herbicides

with different inert ingredients.

The term “inert ingredient” is often misleading, according to Caroline

Cox of the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, a non-

profit environmental group based in Oregon.

Federal law classifies all pesticide ingredients that don’t harm pests

as “inert,” she said. Inert compounds, therefore, aren’t necessarily

biologically or toxicologically harmless – they simply don’t kill

insects or weeds.

Kemery said the EPA takes into account the inert ingredients and how

the product is used, whenever a pesticide is approved for use. The

aim, he said, is to ensure that “if the product is used according to

labeled directions, both people’s health and the environment will not

be harmed.” One label requirement for Roundup is that it should not be

used in or near freshwater to protect amphibians and other wildlife.

But some inert ingredients have been found to potentially affect human

health. Many amplify the effects of active ingredients by helping them

penetrate clothing, protective equipment and cell membranes, or by

increasing their toxicity. For example, a Croatian team recently found

that an herbicide formulation containing atrazine caused DNA damage,

which can lead to cancer, while atrazine alone did not.

POEA was recognized as a common inert ingredient in herbicides in the

1980s, when researchers linked it to a group of poisonings in Japan.

Doctors there examined patients who drank Roundup, either

intentionally or accidentally, and determined that their sicknesses

and deaths were due to POEA, not glyphosate.

POEA is a surfactant, or detergent, derived from animal fat. It is

added to Roundup and other herbicides to help them penetrate plants’

surfaces, making the weed killer more effective.

“POEA helps glyphosate interact with the surfaces of plant cells,”

explained Negin Martin, a scientist at the National Institute of

Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina, who was not involved

in the study. POEA lowers water’s surface tension–the property that

makes water form droplets on most surfaces–which helps glyphosate

disperse and penetrate the waxy surface of a plant.

In the French study, researchers tested four different Roundup

formulations, all containing POEA and glyphosate at concentrations

below the recommended lawn and agricultural dose. They also tested

POEA and glyphosate separately to determine which caused more damage

to embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.

Glyphosate, POEA and all four Roundup formulations damaged all three

cell types. Umbilical cord cells were especially sensitive to POEA.

Glyphosate became more harmful when combined with POEA, and POEA alone

was more deadly to cells than glyphosate. The research appears in the

January issue of the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

By using embryonic and placental cell lines, which multiply and

respond to chemicals rapidly, and fresh umbilical cord cells,

Seralini’s team was able to determine how the chemicals combine to

damage cells.

The two ingredients work together to “limit breathing of the cells,

stress them and drive them towards a suicide,” Seralini said.

The research was funded in part by France’s Committee for Research and

Independent Information on Genetic Engineering, a scientific committee

that investigates risks associated with genetically modified

organisms. One of Roundup’s primary uses is on crops that are

genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate.

Monsanto scientists argue that cells in Seralini’s study were exposed

to unnaturally high levels of the chemicals. “It’s very unlike

anything you’d see in real-world exposure. People’s cells are not

bathed in these things,” said Donna Farmer, another toxicologist at


Seralini’s team, however, did study multiple concentrations of

Roundup. These ranged from the typical agricultural or lawn dose down

to concentrations 100,000 times more dilute than the products sold on

shelves. The researchers saw cell damage at all concentrations.

Monsanto scientists also question the French team’s use of laboratory

cell lines.

“These are just not very good models of a whole organism, like a human

being,” said Dan Goldstein, a toxicologist with Monsanto.

Goldstein said humans have protective mechanisms that resist

substances in the environment, such as skin and the lining of the

gastrointestinal tract, which constantly renew themselves. “Those

phenomena just don’t happen with isolated cells in a Petri dish.”

But Cox, who studies pesticides and their inert ingredients at the

Oregon environmental group, says lab experiments like these are

important in determining whether a chemical is safe.

“We would never consider it ethical to test these products on people,

so we’re obliged to look at their effects on other species and in

other systems,” she said. “There’s really no way around that.”

Seralini said the cells used in the study are widely accepted in

toxicology as good models for studying the toxicity of chemicals.

“The fact is that 90 percent of labs studying mechanisms of toxicity

or physiology use cell lines,” he said.

Most research has examined glyphosate alone, rather than combined with

Roundup’s inert ingredients. Researchers who have studied Roundup

formulations have drawn conclusions similar to the Seralini group’s.

For example, in 2005, University of Pittsburg ecologists added Roundup

at the manufacturer’s recommended dose to ponds filled with frog and

toad tadpoles. When they returned two weeks later, they found that 50

to 100 percent of the populations of several species of tadpoles had

been killed.

A group of over 250 environmental, health and labor organizations has

petitioned the EPA to change requirements for identifying pesticides’

inert ingredients. The agency’s decision is due this fall.

“It would be a big step for the agency to take,” said Cox, “but it’s

one they definitely should.”

The groups claim that the laws allowing manufacturers to keep inert

ingredients secret from competitors are essentially unnecessary.

Companies can determine a competitor’s inert ingredients through

routine lab analyses, said Cox.

“The proprietary protection laws really only keep information from the

public,” she said.