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"Round Up" Your Weeds Without Nasty Chemicals!
Question. Dear Mike: Our church hasgone "green", but the grounds people still insist on using Roundup. Ourlocal school district's IPM (Integrated Pest Management) manager toldme they have not used Roundup since the late 1980's and recommendedthat the Church stop using it as well. He said that the 'inactive'ingredients (stickers, spreaders, etc.) are more toxic than the activeingredient! Perhaps this would be a good subject for your show...
                       ----Mary Kane;Main Line Unitarian Church, Radnor, PA

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

And yes, evidence strongly suggests that Roundup's so-called 'inertingredients' (a decision often made solely by the manufacturer) areeven worse than the 'active' ingredient, the extremely nasty chemicalglyphosate. That's why, when Monsanto talks about their popularCalliban of weed killers, they always say "the active ingredient inRoundup 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 itdoesn't kill-so if you foolishly use it to control weeds in your veggiegarden, you'll be eating Round-Up for the next two years. Yum.

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

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'reactually scaring you AWAY from death). My job is to turn you on to themany non-toxic alternatives to poisons like Roundup-like my FantasticFour of Weed Warriors: Flame, heat, soap and vinegar!

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

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

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


You Bet Your Garden   ©2004 Mike McGrath