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Friday, 17 November 2006
Weeds and Vanity
Topic: social responsibility

Do we need pesticides?

 The debate over cosmetic pesticides seems to have taken a back seat in Ottawa. Other pressing issues like the recent municipal elections and Rona Ambrose's "dinosaur award" are distracting the public. The war in Afghanistan also dominates conversation around the office.

 The change of seasons also has a profound effect on what is hot and what is not. But winter's chilling sleep is only a temporary reprieve from our continued ignorance toward responsible management of our precious grass lawns and green spaces. Eventually spring will arrive. Garden centers will once again stock their shelves with the newest and deadliest brew of chemical pesticides and herbicides. Lawn care companies will be calling us during dinner to promote their services. And if we decline, they will call again; probably during another quiet family moment. To them, no means "maybe, please ask again".

Each special blend will give promise to a trouble-free and convenient method to combat grubs, dandelions, ragweed, and every other kind of intolerable part of nature that humans consider a menace. We will be told that these poisons are perfectly safe. That is, when applied according to directions.

 But if this is true, why do lawn care workers place a warning placard on every lawn that has received their "expert, qualified application" of chemicals? Have they not followed the manufacturer's protocol? If the poisons are truly safe, why bother with a warning sign that shows a sihlouette of a playing child--obscured by the international icon for "NO"--the red circle with a line through the middle?

 Our urban lawns are chemical-free. They had been subjected to chemical treatments until a few years ago. During that time the grubs and dandelions were prolific. Yet we continued to buy into the myth that chemicals were the best way to deal with the "problem".

 Then we discovered an alternative for grub control in the form of beneficial insects. Nematodes are a small worm-like insects. Many gardeners and farmers know of one specific kind, also known as a wire-worm, that devestates plants like tomatoes or peppers. But there is another variety of the creature that loves to eat grubs. They are available from many garden supply centers and are easy to apply.

 Since we began this alternative method, the brown barren patches of grass have regenerated to healthy green grass. Also, in the absense of chemicals, robins swarm our lawns to gobble up any grubs that have escaped the voracious appetites of the nematodes. Total cost--about $25.00 and twenty minutes of our time to apply. Compared to the hundreds of dollars it could cost every year to use chemicals, the alternative looks better and better each season.

 And what about the weeds? Well, unless you are of a pioneering spirit and like to brew dandelion wine or eat the spicy leaves in a salad, it is likely that these overlooked treasures will fall victim to a spray or a sharp blade. It is not wrong to want them to be gone. But the method of chemical application is only a temporary fix. It does not address the reasons for the weed's ability to thrive on our lawns.

 Plants that are commonly refered to as weeds are actually indicators of a problem with the soil below. Each weed contains a dominant mineral or element that is found in healthy soil. When the soil is depleted of one or more of these nutrients, weeds are incited to grow with the inherant purpose of re-introducing that deficiency to the soil. In that sense, weeds do not grow well in healthy soil because they are not needed by Mother Nature at that moment.

 It really comes down to choice. We can either take the easy, expensive, and ineffective path of chemicals. Or we can do better by using nature to our advantage. It costs less, does not harm the environment, and brings a better result overall. The grass is greener, and so are our wallets. It's a win-win situation for us, our grass, our bottom line, and the environment. Any questions?


Posted by valentinoscsa at 10:33 AM EST
Thursday, 16 November 2006

Dirty Fingers

 It is said that a lot can be learned from a person's hands. But by the looks of mine, you couldn't tell I'm a farmer. Clean as a whistle, I can't find a bit of dirt under my nails. God I miss the dirt.

My wife and I were spoile dwhen living in Costa Rica. There really aren't any deliniations between seasons when you are only 9 degrees in latitude above the Equator. It's either hot, humid and dry or hot, humid and wet. The hours of daylight don't change more than thirty minutes during the course of the year.

In comparison, Ottawa is night to Central America's day. So instead of growing year-round like in the south, we are forced into a seasonal vacation from November to April. Oh, what to do.

Guess I'll figure out some more interesting things to write about.

Right now I'm gonna go count seeds and dream of spring. Cheers.

Posted by valentinoscsa at 12:07 PM EST

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