Ever seen these signs? There's a reason why they don't want you walking on the lawn after application. These chemicals are highly toxic!



A person has to only walk down the gardening aisle in Home Depot or any other large chain store to see how chemicals dominate our gardening practices. I found that I could smell the gardening section from 20 to 30 feet away! Many people have heard that organics is important or that chemical fertilizers/pesticides are bad for the environment or their health, but don't really know why. The choice to use chemicals has a far greater impact than your own backyard.

First off, let's take a look at chemical fertilizers/pesticides. These chemicals put the gardener in charge of the feeding cycle. You control how much nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous your plant gets, along with micro-nutrients. Chemicals offer you an arsenal of weapons against pests and weeds. You can grow big plants and get immediate results. If you have poor or depleted soil, these fertilizers can help in compensating for deficiencies. They are easy to find and cheap to use.

So what are the disadvantages?

Chemical fertilizers and other ~cides contain salts. Remember back to high school science where you learned about the process of osmosis? It's the movement of water through a cell membrane from a solution of low solute concentration to a solution with high solute concentration. So where is the water in the soil located? It's locked up in the cells of these microbes. When salts in the form of chemical inputs are added to the soil, the water is drawn out of the microbes and they are either killed or go into a dormant state. Now the plant is dependent on you to provide all of its food and protection. That's why you have to fertilize on a regular basis.

Pesticides also have non-target organism effects. So in addition to killing off the infestation or problem bug, it's also going to kill off other beneficial insects and micro-biology in the soil that are the plant's natural defense system. With these beneficial critters gone, typically it's the pathogens that are the first ones back into the sterile environment and a cycle of spraying becomes established that is hard to break.

Some recent studies have also shown that organically grown produce contains higher nurtrition levels and sugar levels (brix), than conventionally grown produce.

And where are all the unused chemicals going that aren't used by the plant? Well, they leach through the soil and into our groundwater, contaminating streams, lakes, and oceans, as well as our drinking water. We now have "dead zones," where algal blooms have occurred due to the high nitrates in the water from checmical fertilizers. This robs the water of it's dissolved oxygen, and marine life literally suffocates from lack of oxygen.

marine deal zones

dead fish dead fish


In King County, WA (Seattle area) 100% of all the streams and lakes sampled contain pesticides. 23 pesticides were detected. 5 of these exceeded limits set by the National Academy of Sciences


Each year, American homeowners apply at least 90 million pounds of pesticides to their lawns and gardens, according to the Toxics Action Center in Boston

The EPA's studies found that rats exposed to the most common lawn chemical, 2,4-D, in utero, showed an increased incidence of skeletal abnormalities such as extra ribs and malformed ribcages. In rabbits, 2,4-D and its diethanolamine salt caused abortion, skeletal abnormalities as well as developmental neurotoxicity and endocrine disruption. Even though many lawn chemicals are legal and widely available, that doesn't equal "safe".

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Services, Americans use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on their crops.



Children absorb greater concentrations of poisons.

They track poisons into their home from their own lawns.

Children then play on unwashed floors with unwashed hands.

Young children can't read warnings.

Children have less developed immune systems which means less resistance to poisons.

Small doses of neurotoxins can impair learning.

Rapid cell growth makes cellular mutation quicker, and more vulnerable to cancer.

These are just some of the issues with using chemicals in our gardening practices, the list is by no means comprehensive. Check out the other sections on the site to learn about more responsible and healthy ways of gardening.

Click here to read an interview about the effects of glyphosate (Roundup) on the soil.