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"Round Up" Your Weeds Without Nasty Chemicals!


Question. Dear Mike: Our church has gone "green", but the grounds people still insist on using Roundup. Our local school district's IPM (Integrated Pest Management) manager told me they have not used Roundup since the late 1980's and recommended that the Church stop using it as well. He said that the 'inactive' ingredients (stickers, spreaders, etc.) are more toxic than the active ingredient! Perhaps this would be a good subject for your show...
                       ----Mary Kane;Main Line Unitarian Church, Radnor, PA

Answer. Thank you, Mary! It's been WAY too long since I went on a good garden chemical tirade! I always assume that people realize the extreme dangers posed by herbicides and other garden poisons. But I tend to forget how bombarded they are with ads imploring them to use the junk, often implying that the toxins are somehow harmless. (Like when Monsanto says that their Roundup is harmless as table salt-which is actually kind of true, since salt is one of the most corrosive substances on the planet.)

And yes, evidence strongly suggests that Roundup's so-called 'inert ingredients' (a decision often made solely by the manufacturer) are even worse than the 'active' ingredient, the extremely nasty chemical glyphosate. That's why, when Monsanto talks about their popular Calliban of weed killers, they always say "the active ingredient in Roundup does this or that". They never talk about the actual product,which kills earthworms and beneficial insects, has been linked tonon-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and is taken up internally by any plants it doesn't kill-so if you foolishly use it to control weeds in your veggie garden, you'll be eating Round-Up for the next two years. Yum.

You can get all the scary details from one of my favorite organizations, Beyond Pesticides. I'll post a direct link to their factsheet on glyphosate with this Question of the Week. You can also visit their home site at BeyondPesticides.org

I actually prefer to let others do the scaring you to death part.(Which is more than just a phrase in this case-although they're actually scaring you AWAY from death). My job is to turn you on to the many non-toxic alternatives to poisons like Roundup-like my Fantastic Four of Weed Warriors: Flame, heat, soap and vinegar!

But of course, I MUST first mention mulch. An inch of shredded fall leaves, straw, or clippings from an herbicide-free lawn is your best defense against garden weeds. DO NOT USE WOOD CHIPS, SHREDDED BARK,SAWDUST, "COLORED MULCH" OR OTHER WOOD PRODUCTS AROUND PLANTS-they steal nitrogen from the soil and prevent water from reaching roots.Don't use them within 30 feet of your home or car either-unless you like impossible-to-remove shotgun fungus stains.

…and 'mechanical controls'!  I use a weed whacker on the grass that grows in the lanes between my raised beds. I used to use woods chips in the lanes-a place in which they are perfectly safe-but I've come to prefer whacking once a month. The grass 'captures' nutrients that leach out of the beds, and then I 'harvest' it for mulch and compost making. Plus I get to make a lot of noise and get all dirty and then run through the sprinkler.

OK, your top four non-toxic alternatives to nasty chemical herbicide sare:

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You Bet Your Garden   ©2004 Mike McGrath