Re: Home gardener chemical use

At 11:02 PM 2/9/97 -0500, you wrote:

>I doubt your conclusion that home gardeners use more chemicals
>per capita, it is not logical.

Hi Ed,
     Thanks for responding. You're right, of course about the above
statement. What I meant to write was that home gardners _as a group_ use
more chemicals than the agricultural community, and home gardeners tend to
overuse chemicals, both fertilizers and pesticides.
>Is your conclusion based on some concern that 'home gardeners'
>are not smart enough to use chemicals, ...

     Certainly, I don't believe that home gardeners aren't smart enough to
use chemicals or that they lack concern for the environment. Here are a
couple of things based on my experience that I do believe,(Feel free too
skip this part if you don't really care what I believe): 
          (1) many people tend not to read, understand or follow product
label directions very well. I don't think this is a function of intelligence
but rather of restricted awareness. For instance, most people I ask about it
don't realize that there's any difference between label listed toxicity
categories, i.e., Caution, Warning or Danger. While some may know that
there's a correlation between these categories and toxicity levels, many
believe it's a manufacturer choice in description rather than an EPA
          (2) many people take a laissez-faire approach to chemical mixing.
You know, how when you cook something by following a recipe, you may follow
pretty close the first few times? And after a while, what the heck, a
teaspoon of sugar or a teaspoon and a half, one large egg or two small eggs?
Well people mix garden chemicals like that. The fungicide label says one
tablespoon per two gallons of water, but I've got a _bad_ fungus and "more
is better," right? OK, one and a half tablespoons, or one tablespoon to
_one_ gallon of water, big deal. And then you only use half a gallon. What
do you do with the rest. Now some people will save that stuff in their
garage or make a special trip to a toxic collection station (for a fee) with
that stuff, but hey, it's not that much. Some people (and I believe a
significant number of people) are throwing that stuff in the dirt at the
foot of that shrub or tree or emptying it down their drain. 
     Not stupid people. Just people. This stuff is sold will catchy,
safe-sounding names, in pretty green bottles in the aisle over from my pasta
and veggies, why wouldn't I believe it's safe?;
          (3) many people don't know they don't have to use chemicals!

>... or that they lack the concern for the environment.

While there are an ever-growing number of people who care deeply for the
environment, many people still believe that (1) environmental problems are
blown way out of proportion; or (2) someone is taking care of the
environment for them (government regulatory outfits and such); or (3) people
couldn't sell stuff that would harm the environment; or (4) are so
overwhelmed with environmental issues that they don't believe small
individual actions can or do make a difference (I'm _not_ in this crowd --
small individual action is all that will ever make a difference); or (etc.,
etc., etc)...

>In spite of planned strategy and excellent cultural practice,
>there are some crops in some areas that need chemical controls.
>In the Northeast, it would be almost impossible to grow apples
>that could be used without some control of the plum curculio,
>not the extent that must be used by orchardists, but to obtain
>an acceptable crop (one that would not be saleable on the

I wasn't referring to cash crops, Ed, I was speaking only to practices of
home gardeners, not growers. However, I still have to respectfully disagree
with your statement, above. I don't know about the plum curculio, but we
grow an awful lot of apples here in the Pacific Northwest, and there is a
large supply of organically grown apples as well as all other
consumer-sought fruits in markets in my area. Again I'd repeat, if you have
a plant that _needs_ chemical control, then that plant is stressed and not
doing well in that place. Replace it. Improve your soil, monitor your
garden/plants regularly, tolerate some damage and/or grow pest-resistant
varieties, and repeat like a mantra "I will not use chemicals; I will not
use chemicals; I will not ..." If organic growers can feed communities
without using toxins, certainly a home gardner can grow chemical-free plants.

>Do you really recommend that no 'home gardener' ever grow a plant
>that requires any chemical intervention????

I recommend that gardeners _perform no chemical intervention_. Although I
have a preference for bioregion-specific natives, my clients grow pretty
much what they want. Our goal is to improve soil fertility, improve the
garden's diversity, limit plant stress and to treat any pest 'epidemic' (of
which I've seen few) as symptomatic of an imbalance in the whole garden.

Hope I've addressed your points in a helpful manner.

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