The universe is a strange creature, and I just spent well over an hour writing a post about my presentations at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, and a disturbing event that happened this past week. I thought I had published the post, but no…something went haywired and the post went off into some unknown place never to be found again apparently. It was a bit of a rant, in truth, so I’ll now try to re-write it again in a calmer way. We’ll see if I succeed.
So, I arrived today in Seattle to speak at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show over the weekend. Tomorrow, February 13th at 7pm, I will be presenting a talk called Welcoming Pollinators Into Edible Gardens in the Rainier Room. A book-signing event will follow my presentation.
On Saturday, February 14th at 11:15 in the Hood Room, I’ll give a presentation called Peaceful Ways to Handle Wildlife Challenges, with a book-signing event afterwards.
If you are attending the Flower Show, I invite you to come and listen to what I have to share in my presentations. Both topics are near and dear to my heart and to life on our farm in Colorado, Desert Canyon Farm.
Now, let me tell you about a very disturbing thing that happened this past week, but first a bit of history around the subject. Last year several box store chains said they would be requiring growers who supplied them with plants to label those plants if they had been treated with neonicotinoid pesticides. This decision came from the zillions of their customers who were distressed that they were buying plants that contained residues in them from this group of systemic pesticides called neonics for short. It was especially troubling to gardeners who were wanting to garden organically or to encourage pollinators and beneficial insects, or other types of wildlife, into their garden landscapes.
For some of us, we thought this would be a great step forward that would give full disclosure to customers about what the plants they were buying had been treated with during the growing process, but alas it has turned into a horrible deceitful joke that won’t help customers who want to buy plants that welcome beneficial wildlife like pollinators into their gardens. Below is a picture of the label that Home Depot has announced it will be using in plants it sells that have been treated with these very harmful pesticides called neonicotinoids.
In fairness to the marketing people who thought up this ploy, the label is “truthful”, but it is also greatly deceitful because what it doesn’t say is that plants treated with systemic neonics will not only kill these types of pest insects, but they will kill or greatly harm pollinating insects and beneficial insects (also called predator insects), along with contaminating soil and water, harming songbirds, bats, earthworms, aquatic creatures like fish and frogs, etc. These systemic neonics are in all the plant tissues, including the roots, leaves, flowers, seeds, nectar and pollen…every part of the plant, and they last for months (up to 12-18 months). That means they are in the plants for a full year of season cycles at least. They are known to kill insects, good and bad, and if they don’t kill the insects, they can seriously harm the insects ability to behave in normal ways and to negatively impact their immune systems.
We are talking about domestic pollinators like honeybees, but also wild pollinators like native bees such as bumblebees, hover flies, some beetles, wasps, bats and hummingbirds. Research has found these chemicals in the soil and water, even so far as in some of the great barrier reefs in the ocean where many creatures living there have neonics in their tissues. Hmmm… Because insects are the foundation of the food chain, animals that eat them get contaminated like wild birds, including songbirds, for example. Creatures that live in soil or water or that drink water or eat plants are exposed to these chemicals. It’s called the web of life for a reason, because all these nature things and beings, including ourselves, are interwoven together in this tapestry that is called living on earth. And remember, that if pollinators die or can’t do their work well, then plants don’t get pollinated and don’t yield good harvests, which means less food. Literally, every single whole or natural food that we eat is impacted by the work of pollinators somewhere along the way, so bad or no pollination means we have nothing or less to eat! This is a big problem for the whole planet, and if we want to be selfish and only look at our piece of the pie, it is a big problem for humans.
The good news is that we can get along quite nicely without using neonic pesticides. Humans have been growing plants for hundreds of years, and for the majority of those years we did that task organically, either intentionally or by default. We have succeeded until pretty recently in growing plants without neonicotinoid pesticides, and there is absolutely no reason we cannot continue to do so affectively. There are loads of better choices like taking advantage of working with nature to utilize wild birds and predator insects to control pest problems. There are baits and traps that can be used. We can nourish our soil and use good gardening practices to help lessen some of the problems that can arise of pests in the garden too. If there is a situation that just can’t be dealt with any other way than applying a pesticide, then let’s choose products that are ok for use in organic growing and gardening. These will either be certified organic or OMRI listed products and ingredients. They contain ingredients like neem, soap sprays, cinnamon and rosemary oils, jojoba or horticultural oils, diotanacious earth, sluggo for snails and pill bugs, pepper sprays, and many other options.
I do want to remind you that these types of pesticides are for organic growing, but they are still really strong and should not be used carelessly. READ THE LABEL COMPLETELY before you use them, so that you know how to prepare them, when to apply them, and how often to use them. This will keep you safe and make sure that they are affective in what you are trying to accomplish. It is not enough to just read the front panel of the label, so if you need to, make yourself a cup of tea and sit down for however long it takes you to read the entire label! Then you can do the best job of using these products.
I’ll leave off the rest of my rant for tonight, even though I wouldn’t mind going on about it for a while. Surfice it to say, that this is all of our responsibility to garden and grow in the best, most earth-friendly ways possible. It is our obligation to the earth we live on and to all the wildlife and ecosystems we share this planet with. We must do this also for ourselves, our children, all the way to our great great great grandchildren and then some. We can do this! We know how to do it, and how to do it very well, so we have all the tools in our toolbox to succeed. We just need to get better at choosing the right tool and becoming expert at using them well.
Let’s insist that plants be grown in more sustainable ways, and without systemic pesticides like neonics. We must simply educate ourselves on the better choices, and then choose to use those options over the products like neonics that give us more harmful results in the long run.
Let’s insist that we don’t want neonic systemic pesticides in our garden landscapes or on our farms and orchards. Let’s insist that we don’t want them used in our parks, open spaces, golf courses and cemeteries, on our school or play grounds. Let’s insist that we don’t want them used near us or far from us. This is important for all of us, so please join Chris and I, and let’s get to it. It’s well worth doing for all kinds of reasons, but know at the very least the pollinators and beneficial insects will be in gratitude to you for your help.
With Green Thoughts, Tammi
photo copyright by Saxon Holt