Category Archives: Weed killer

Silent Spring

For many years I have wanted to read Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” but have not got round to it mainly because I thought it would be a bit too full on. Well it is and it is not! First impressions are that considering it was published in 1962 it feels like it was written yesterday.








What has changed in 58 years? Everything and nothing. We are now more deeply committed to high input agrochemical farming and even more reliant on pesticides and other chemicals that have invaded every part of our daily lives.

I was asked recently what is the best thing we can do to increase biodiversity in gardens. My answer is simple, stop using insecticides. There is no excuse for blasting everything with a spray just so it looks nice and kills all those supposedly nasty insects and then wonder why there are so few birds around.

This year Spring in our garden was better, the number of birds seemed to have increased and the dawn chorus returned. Then lock down ended and the birds stopped singing and spring became silent again.

I am left with the feeling that the only thing we have done since 1962 is to speed up trashing everything we depend on. It feels like we are on an increasingly steep downward spiral that will lead to the total destruction of the planet that gives us all we need unless we do something.

So, what can we do?  We can find the courage to be different and not be part of consumerist society where status is determined by ownership of the latest toys. We can find an alternative to factory farmed food soaked in chemicals and wrapped in plastic. That might mean spending a bit more on what we eat and less on holidays, mobile phones, or other non-essential goodies we are coerced into accepting as the norm. Or we do nothing and take it on the chin and leave the next generation with little but a dying planet.

The choice to downsize, consume less and eat organic food is no where near the hair shirt mentality touted by those who want to retain the status quo. It can be liberating, joyful even, like a release from always having to follow the crowd, to keep up, to gain status by being seen to buy the right stuff.

It took a brush with death for me to make new choices 30 years ago and yes, I did see my whole life flash in front of me like a failed B movie. You don’t need to go through that to realise there are better alternatives. Learn from others who have done it be proud to be different. Relax and enjoy what we have right in front of us. Now is the time to change and live differently, seize the moment.

New, ‘safer’ weedkillers are still toxic

Now that glyphosate is being phased out there is a huge for safe alternatives. This research has: “… identified toxic levels of undeclared ingredients such as heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in some new alternatives to glyphosate-based herbicides…”

So how do we deal with weeds? First, try to get over the desire to have the neatest, tidiest garden possible. Accept that will be plants growing in places we don’t want them to grow. Nature does not follow our rules so stop fighting it. Learn that gardening is not a battle and if you treat it as one you will never win.

If you must remove weeds then pull them out or use a basic weeding tool, just like we used to do a few years back. There is absolutely no need to blast everything with chemicals.

Most of all remember that there is no such thing as a totally safe weed killer as this new research shows.

Round up the weeds

The use of weed killers has become normalised in everyday life. They are available on supermarket shelves ready to drop into your trolley when you do the weekly shop. it is becoming a major problem in agriculture and gardening; the reliance on a quick fix without any real understanding of the consequences.

Weed killer neatly stacked on a supermarket shelf next to food!

It is claimed that glyphosate weed killers are neutralised when they hit the soil but there is of evidence to prove otherwise. There is a research to shows that it can persist in soil and that it damages vital soil organisms.

The other misunderstanding is in the way that it is used. Glyphosate is a contact herbicide meaning that it has to fall on the fall the plant to kill it. Spraying it on, say the cracking in paving slabs will not prevent weeds from growing.

If the ground is has lots of weeds it will kill them but soil contains thousands of seeds waiting for the right conditions to germinate. So there is an endless cycle of killing top growth, seeds germination, more weed killer applied and so on. That’s good for sales but bad for the soil.

We need to change our attitude to keeping everything neat and tidy all the time. Pull weeds out by hand, use a hand weeder, try an oscillating Swiss hoe in the garden and compost the weeds!

Toxic manure is back!

While visiting friends today (strict social distancing!) for the first time for months we saw a new local community garden. One of the plots had broad beans with distorted leaves where horse manure had been used. It looks very much like damage from the herbicide aminopyralid.

Aminopyralid passes through the guts of animals and into the manure. It is persistent and only breaks down through the action of soil microbes. It was first reported in 2008, banned for a while and is now back. Why was it re-approved?

That is why we have a zero in/zero out policy here and reply on making our own compost from garden and kitchen waste.

Banned pesticides in imported food

With a lot of talk about the UK buying food from ‘the market’  it is no coincidence that Johnson whipped his MPs to get a bill through parliament. The legislation clears the way for the UK to import food without conforming to current UK or EU standards.

Great you might say, as long as it is cheap but it is likely that such food could have been treated with pesticides banned in the UK for many years because of their known effects on human health. Chemicals like organophosphates  which were derived from the gas used in WWII gas chambers.

A new report from Switzerland found alarming levels of residues in imported foods from many Counties including the USA.

The range of produce containing banned pesticides is alarming.

What we must do to preserve the quality of UK food:

  1. Sign the petition the food standards petition here 
  2. Find your MP and write to them to voice your concerns.
  3. Do not buy food from any of the countries on the list above – check the label.
  4. Contact you favourite supermarket asking them if they are aware of the issue and what they are doing about it.
  5. Play safe and only buy fresh fruit and veg that is certified organic.
  6. Grow as much of your own as you can.

The usual shop bought lettuce

Ever wondered where those bags of bright green lettuce come from? The answer is from massive fields harvested by big machines.

Notice how perfect they are. How is that done? The answer is simple by repeated application of pesticides including insecticides and fungicides plus lots of artificial fertiliser to make then look very green.

Modern pesticides are systemic which means they get into every cell of the plant. They are designed to poison any insect that bites the plant. Systemic pesticides cannot be removed, no amount of washing will get them out.

The government sets the maximum amount of residual pesticide for each pesticide in common use. But there will a cocktail of different pesticides in every plant. There is no limit to the number pesticides used. There is little research as to of effects on human health of regularly consuming  pesticide cocktails, even if the residues for each individual chemical stays within the limits. Nobody knows how they might react with each other. Things are changing as concern grows about the food we eat, see this report.

Lettuce are fed a lot of artificial fertiliser to ensure that they grow quickly and look very green. That produces more problems. First, not all the fertiliser is used, the surplus is washed into ditches, then rivers and then the sea. Excess nitrogen in water is a big problem yet is virtually ignored.

The other concern is that the soil used on farms has become depleted. It does not hold together well so get washed off in heavy rain or blows about when it is dry because it contains very little organic matter. Soil loss from erosion is a massive issue for the UK and the world with a prediction that we only have about 40 years of topsoil left. What then?

When the lettuce will be ready to harvest they are picked by hand and packed into plastic bags ready to be shipped to the retailer. Supermarkets will control the whole process from telling the farmer what variety to grow, how to manage the crop and how many bagged lettuce they want on a certain date. The field becomes an extension of the shop floor, part of a mass production process geared to make the maximum profit for the retailer.

All this because consumers have been led to believe that the cheapest, mass produced factory food is best. Bur cheap food comes with hidden costs –  read about mineral deficiencies in modern food.

People often ask why bother to pay the extra for organic produce. The answer is simple, choose food that is grown in rich fertile soils without the use of pesticides that produces more nutrient dense food that is much more sustainable or stick with factory farming. It’s you choice!

Our first lettuce of the season, grown in soil with absolutely no chemical pesticides!

This is a link to a lettuce table we made a few years back where you can grow your own even without a garden. We are about to make another so stay tuned – video to follow.

Glyphosate/Roundup Decimates Microbes in Soils and the Human Gut

There has been lots of research over the years that showed that glyphosate does not break down on contact with soil, as was claimed. It now looks as if it also damages soil and the human gut.

The latest study was carried out by a team led by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen. The researchers suggest that glyphosate use could be behind the recent spike in gut disease noted in industrialized nations that genetic reasons alone have failed to explain.

People ask me why I grow/buy organic food, this is the answer.  And it is on sale in many supermarkets next to household cleaning products and sometimes next to food. It should be banned.

Glyphosate from Monsanto’s Roundup Decimates Microbes in Soils and the Human Gut – New Science

Local authority weed killer spraying

I have never understood why local councils, including our own, think they have the right to spay weed killer onto the border of private property. It is about time it was banned throughout the UK.

Let’s make this a national campaign.
“Greenock gardener Stuart Graham’s campaign to get his local authority bosses to ban the use of Roundup, which contains glyphosate, has attracted international attention.

Now he hopes he may persuade the local authority to go a step further as he continues his fight.”