CrrriticMinistry Of ControversyScience Says

The Monsters Among Us

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He’s holding a daisy, his maker cobbled him together from unnatural things – and nobody can predict when he’s going to lose it and create much badness!

Happy Halloween. I hope to really scare you.

Because there ARE monsters. There are things that are truly frightening in our world, and we gardeners are on the front lines, either fighting these forces of evil, or being victimized by them. OR, we stand by and do nothing… and to my mind that is really really scary.

What monsters you ask? Where? Oh come on, YOU KNOW. This is a thin, hackneyed little metaphor I’m using – you get it! The monsters I’m talking about are the substances and practices used in gardening that challenge and diminish the health of our planet. Gardeners of all stripes, from the pro to the homeowners who hobby-garden, are all assailed with propaganda from the Dr Frankensteins of the world to use the products they make in their labs and our gardens will be GLORIOUS! Our blossoms will be huge and too numerous to count, our food crops will be bountiful and robust – we will be the envy of the neighborhood with all those flowers and all that food! And it will be so EASY! Just attach a sprayer full of synthetic chemicals to your hose and spray away; you will be feeding your plants a yummy blue magic potion and in return they will give you more than you ever imagined! How convenient! You get all that wonder and those bragging rights for mere pennies.

(A scene from an upcoming horror film)

Neighbor: walking her pooch, stopping in front of the home of a sweet elderly woman, who is standing proudly  among her incredibly flowery and food-laden Rosalind Creasy-esque garden :  (Gasp!) “Rosie!, what a BEEE-YOUTIFUL garden! How do you DO it? You have such a green thumb, I’m so jealous!” (dog begins barking at sweet woman, suspiciously)

Gardener: “Why thank you Betty, yes, I just love nature. What can I say, being a gardener is so life-affirming and positive!” … she hides her blue-stained thumbs by shoving them deep into her floral gardening smock and fiddles with her pruners, flashing Betty a winning smile. “Here, have a few Dahlias for your house, and give my love to Ted and the girls!” She hands her neighbor a bouquet of blossoms – flowers full of neurotoxins and excitotoxins.

(side note – I think my little horror film has real potential! Think of it – cast a beloved elderly actress, say Betty White, as the neighborhood gardening lady who everyone admires for her floral and vegetal prowess, and slowly reveal that her garden is only that beautiful because not only does she use the run-of-the-mill poisons like the ones we can buy at most nurseries and big box stores, she is also developing her own MUTANT POISONS to create bigger flowers and more vegetables at the expense of her innocent neighbors who all start developing strange maladies and then start dropping like flies exposed to malathion! NOOOOOOOO!!!! *I run screaming from my computer at the horror of it all*)

Okay I’m back. Yes, there are monsters. The popular ones to hate at the moment are the neonicotinoids because of their deleterious effects on our bee populations, and I am very afraid of those, but I still hold to the classics. The monster I really love to hate has a recognizable name (starts with an R and ends with an UP – but don’t say it three times while you look in a mirror or you might find yourself doubled over with severe gastric distress). This beast is embraced by many. He is insidious. Even some who profess to be organic gardeners use this monster, because what is a little harm when you are going to be doing so much good by making an organic, sustainable piece of permaculture or whatever?

The monster is known by another, more ancient name.  Glyphosate. The enemy.

I get it, this is controversial, especially among landscape professionals. I KNOW – I used the monster for years. Before any garden installation, the weed abatement was built into the process – spray existing weedy growth, remove when kill is complete, water until new growth emerges, spray, kill, remove. I’d have a clean substrate to plant in, and the weeds that would emerge during the growing season would be far less able to choke out a baby garden. But at what cost?

– rats fed Monsanto’s maize (roundup ready) developed massive breast tumors in a lifetime feeding study recently published. (glyphosate has estrogenic properties) Most GMO corn is genetically modified specifically to be resistant to the repeated sprayings of glyphosate products and other herbicides.

– European studies show that people in 18 countries have glyphosate in their bodies.

– people living near Argentina’s vast plantations of genetically modified soy are seeing birth defects and rates of miscarriage 100 times the national average.

– inert ingredients in the most popular formulation of glyphosate (ahem) have been found to NOT be inert and to in fact amplify toxicity.

– glyphosate wreaks havoc on possibly the most important life form on the planet, the bacteria which colonize our guts. While mammals don’t have the pathways to take glyphosates directly into our systems, our gut bacteria DO, and it is postulated that this may be one of the causes for increased instances of Celiac’s Disease, food allergies, and other chronic diseases and syndromes.

That’s a BIG PRICE we are paying for convenience.

Now my process for addressing weeds is more labor intensive and yes, it costs more. It takes more time. It isn’t convenient. But my clients are happy that I am not using toxic substances that may negatively impact their health while landscaping their homes. I am not bringing a monster to a garden party.

The readership of Garden Rant is full of garden professionals. Have you committed to ending your association with glyphosate? Because I know we can commit to organic practices and the transition can be fairly smooth – but THIS is where it is hard – not using glyphosate when prepping your site for construction. We must commit to a more labor intensive process with careful weed abatement by manual cultivation before planting and hand-weeding after.

Home gardeners, have YOU committed to truly organic practices? Do you deal with your weeds with boiling water, vinegar, and a little extra muscle or do you simply spritz from a bottle of the Red-Nozzled Boogeyman?

Are YOU the person in the horror movie who goes running into the basement despite the protestations of everyone around you, saying “This is STUPID, there’s no MONSTER in here…”

We all know what happens to that person.


*I prefer not to embed links within my posts. Should you want to read a few pages on the points touched upon, please read:

Posted by

Ivette Soler
on October 28, 2014 at 9:59 pm, in the category CRRRITIC, Everybody’s a Critic, Gardening on the Planet, Ministry of Controversy, Real Gardens, Science Says.


  1. Thank you SO MUCH for writing about this stuff. Since much of the devastation caused by insecticides, herbicides and fungicides is initially invisible to all but the most trained eyes, it needs to be said again and again and again. For the past several years I’ve been heartened by the appearance of a phenomenon in soybean fields, significant volunteer corn growth from the previous year’s crop that, true to Monsanto’s promise, is indeed “ready” to shrug off all the glyphosphate one might send its way. Ooops. Didn’t think that one through, did they? I’m heartened because farmers, a very practical lot, are also sticklers for order and take great pride in the look of their fields. I just know this worsening superweed corn growth has got to be a burr in their saddleblankets, so to speak. OK, fine, so I’m mixing ranchers and farmers – big whoops – we’re all in this together. Just stop using this crap. The world won’t end.

  2. Joe Schmitt you haven’t been strangled in your sleep yet! So much the better for all of us! Thank you for commenting because I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU! Just stop using the stuff! We can find other ways!

  3. Thank you – it can’t be said enough – these things are bad for the earth. And yes, I know people who are “organic”, BUT when it comes to a noxious weed, they think it’s OK to use this horrible stuff. I’d rather live with some weeds and be vigilant about physically pulling, covering whatever. However the really scary part is the amount of this chemical being used by the non-organic home gardeners – it’s just part of their routine. I feel I need to speak up more – keep reminding us.

  4. YES Susan thank you I remember your post about it! It always bears repeating that natural substances are ALSO TOXIC – Pyrethrins are a big example. AND bt, which made me so sick the first time I applied it – never, ever again. To be frank, I haven’t used vinegar in years, NOR boiling water, I just have cheap serrated kitchen knives I buy in 4 packs that I take with me while walking the garden and I pop out all the damn Stipa tennuissima that is STILL invading my yard 4 years after I banished it from my garden! I am always favoring food grade products (I never used the hardcore vinegar, just household 5%) but even those can have negative effects if used badly. Just like using a slat solution, vinegar can and will impact soil health. Sigh – always a price to be paid!

  5. Don’t forget that pulling weeds sends nitrogen into the air, brings more weed seeds to the surface, depletes soil organic matter compared to no-till, and damages the microherd.

  6. microherd = biome? Who coined that phrase? I need to know its origins why it should be considered an acceptable term! Provide all links and I need to see this term used by more than one or two fringe dwellers!

  7. I am so on board with you! Loving this post. It’s so important that they word gets out that gyyphosate and yes, I’ll say it, Round Up are HORRIBLE for the earth, for us, our kids and our pets! We are the only people on our street in suburbia not using these products, so disturbing! But I want to be the nice neighbor, so hopefully over a piece of peanut butter pie I can slowly convince people to please stop using this products. It blows my mind, how people with little kids 5 and under can spray this stuff all over their lawns and then their kids play in that same lawn with their bare hands. Not to mention their pets roll around in it. Just bad all around. I totally blame this stuff for the increase we see in allergies and like you mentioned…..celiacs disease.

  8. Yes Laura, I think we need to be very thoughtful about how we are impacting our own health when we create an imbalance in our soil and environment. I believe the mystery surrounding the increasing numbers of auto-immune diseases may point right to our food and water supplies, which have been tainted. I wonder, if another country altered the genetics of our food and put ambiguous chemicals into our waterways, would we have such a lassez-faire attitude? I think not! Thanks so much for your comment, and your kind words. I’m glad you can feel good about your family rolling around in your healthy garden!

  9. Hrmmm – do you have citations for those claims? I spent 15 years in ag research (weed biocontrol, so no, I’m not some Monsanto mouth piece; about as far from it as possible), so I always give articles like this a bit of a side eye, especially when claims are made with no links to scientific articles. Yes, I looked at the links – I’m talking about peer-reviewed articles from respected scientific journals, not a site like Mercola.

  10. Thanks for the links JW – very very appreciated! Yes, I am fully aware that I took a risk citing Mercola’s evidence against glyphosate – he is SO polarizing, but like I stated above, I think some of the connections he makes are potentially very interesting and would benefit from true scientific investigation. I am not the type of person that throws out EVERYTHING someone says just because a few things don’t line up – if that is our standard then who can really meet them? Mercola is a bit of a shill, but he has a viewpoint that I believe shouldn’t be so easily dismissed. AND – as a writer I was very attracted to the hysterical tone set forth in that article and thought it would well serve my point in this post, and the style of horror and extremism. I’m so sorry to disappoint, but very very happy that you added to the fount of knowledge here! Because really, it is this kind of discussion that I hope to spark, so thanks!

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