You Bet Your Garden

How to protect your neighborhood from unwanted pesticides


Listen to the full show:

Mike explains how to rid your lawn of clover, which pear trees are the best to plant, how your lawn care could be killing your trees, why the genetically modified issue is an herbicide issue and how to protect your neighborhood from unwanted pesticides.


Question of the Week:

“A friend recently called my attention to the fact that our township sprayed weedkillers from a truck along the side of a stream at a local ball field. The vegetation was brown and wilted for quite a distance, and a wide variety of plants seem to have been affected, including a neighbor’s arborvitaes on the opposite bank. A dog was nosing around in the water, and I noticed a couple of dead frogs. There is also a playground about 100 yards downstream. Is this safe? If not, what can I do about it?”

— Larry in Bucks County, PA

How to protect your neighborhood from unwanted pesticides »


Highlights from show for September 14, 2013:

Rid your lawn of clovers

Sandy from Flower Town, Pennsylvania is hoping to find an organic way to eliminate white clovers that are disrupting the green of her lawn. Mike offers a surprising twist that clover was actually an integral part of every grass mixture up until the mid 1960s, as it is a source of nitrogen and can actually feed the lawn if the clippings are returned after mowing. However, Mike explains, having a proliferating clover problem is a general sign that the lawn is under fed and/or over watered. ” But if you’re not over watering and you get on a good feeding schedule (once in the fall, once in the spring, never in the summer, just twice a year) and you still see the clover, then one of these upcoming falls you should have your lawn aerated. That’s running a machine over it to pull little plugs out, and that’ll relieve the soil compaction. Your lawn will drain better. And then the amount of water it gets becomes less important because the soil compaction is less and the roots can take it up and use it. “


Picking the right pear tree

Mike from Winterville, North Carolina has a Bradford pear tree he wants to replace, considering the many problems it produces. Inundated with the many varieties of trees, he phones in to ask Mike which trees grow well in a yard. Taking into account that the caller is blind, Mike offers this suggestion: “If you have somebody to help you with the pears, then you’re going to have that taste and know you grew it on your own property. Because pears really do grow themselves.” Mike goes on to say, “If you’re going to grow a fruit tree, and you want something to eat, a disease resistant pear would be the absolute right thing to do.”

The genetically modified issue is an herbicide issue

Doug, a scientist from Newark, Delaware, is concerned about the misplaced caution for genetically modified foods. Prompted by a previous call regarding the dangers of using genetically modified foods in composting, Doug calls to talk more in depth about the true culprit behind the health concerns of genetically modified (GM) foods: herbicides. Mike, being an organic advocate, explains that although there might be little genetic difference between GM foods and organic foods, GM foods are modified to tolerate systemic weed killers that are then ingested by people. This increased use of herbicides is undoing the potentially useful advances of GM foods. Mike says, “When GM crops first appeared, the promise was that they would increase yield and reduce pesticide use. And so far the main, the most popular genetically modified crops, the roundup ready ones (the roundup ready soybean and corn), they’ve dramatically increased the use of an herbicide that some researchers have linked to the killing of amphibians and especially in the egg and tadpole stage.” Mike just doesn’t believe that Genetically Modified foods fulfills the original promise of reducing pesticide use.

  • Related: Tim Mountz on GMO’s

“When GM crops first appeared, the promise was that they would increase yield and reduce pesticide use. And so far, … they’ve dramatically increased the use of an herbicide that some researchers have linked to the killing of amphibians.”

Mike McGrath


Caring for your lawn could be killing your trees

Vern from Akron, Ohio has a crab apple tree that’s going in a flower bed surrounded by a lawn. The tree has always been healthy until a few years ago, when the leaves started falling off after the flowers bloomed, and would become completely bare by June. Vern has been fertilizing his lawn for the past five years by following a four-step program put out by lawn care companies, but Mike advises against this. He says, “These four-step programs are bad for lawns. If you feed your lawn in the summer your lawn is going to have brown spots, bare spots, and lots of problems. You should feed your lawn naturally in the spring and in the fall. Because the tree is so close to it, the feedings you give your lawn are going to affect the tree. So you want to keep cheep chemical fertilizers away from there.”






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