Pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals

Flowers ©Janet AllenWe have beautiful, healthy gardens without added chemicals

We want to create a healthy habitat for people, pets, and wildlife. Avoiding chemicals is part of our efforts.

For many years now, we've grown fruit and vegetables in our edible garden, had flower beds full of flowers, and have thriving lawn and shrubs—all without using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Instead we focus on maintaining healthy soil.

Besides the fact that our experience shows that these chemicals are unnecessary, research (see sidebar) indicates they are dangerous for children, pets, and wildlife.

Here are our alternatives to pesticides.

Yard chemicals and children

Grandson inspecting the Pesticide Free sign ©Janet AllenOur (then) 2-year old grandson inspecting the Pesticide Free—Safe for Children sign

Our grandson can't yet appreciate a pesticide-free yard, but we feel good about providing a safe, healthy place for him to play. And we're protecting the health of all our community's children.

There's enough evidence of harm to children—they're poisons, after all—that not using these chemicals is the prudent thing to do.

How could having a perfect lawn be worth even one child in our community being sickened by these chemicals? Yet that seems to be the choice people continue to make. It's very puzzling.

What mother doesn't worry about prenatal exposure to the many toxic chemicals in our environment?

It will always be difficult to have 100% proof that any given pesticide is harmful, a fact that chemical companies rely on to create doubt about the dangers of their products.

But could we ever ethically compare groups of children who were or were not exposed to pesticides—the only way to provide the proof they require?

Common sense tells us to use the Precautionary Principle (see Alternatives for a definition of this concept).

As Sandra Steingraber says, "The benefit of the doubt goes to children, not chemicals!" (I highly recommend her books - see sidebar.)

Yard chemicals and pets

Pet on grass ©Janet AllenOur pet dog Sheena on the lawn

It's hard to believe that even while we were using lawn chemicals, we let our dog lie on the grass, thinking it was safe after 24 hours! She was further exposed to these chemicals in the neighborhood when we took her on walks.

Research (sidebar) has since found increased risks of cancer among dogs related to lawn and garden chemicals.

And sadly, as it happens, she did die of cancer.

Yard chemicals and wildlife

Black swallowtail caterpillar ©Janet AllenBlack swallowtail caterpillar: a "parsley worm"

We always plant lots of parsley (as well as other larval host plants) in the hopes of attracting a beautiful black swallowtail to lay her eggs. Imagine our dismay when we saw one well-known garden catalog advertise Caterpillar Killer as a "safer" way of killing "parsley worms"—aka the caterpillars of the beautiful black swallowtail butterfly!

Mallard ©Janet Allen
Birds are sitting ducks for pesticide exposure

Other butterflies, bees, birds, amphibians, and other wildlife are dramatically affected either acutely resulting in immediate death, or chronically resulting in reduced vigor or associated consequences, such as gender change as in frogs.

Bee ©Janet Allen
A bee apparently poisoned by pesticides

Although I can't be sure, it this bee was acting as if it had been poisoned by pesticides — unfortunately a plausible explanation considering the amount of pesticides applied in the neighborhood. And with the population of bees in decline, it's not only sad, but alarming.