Gardening: Google the ingredients in your herbicide to prevent killing your plants
I’ve been sitting here at the computer trying to think of a topic that I haven’t written about before. I’ve written columns for various newspapers since the mid 1970’s, so coming up with a new topic each week is sometimes difficult. Many gardening columns simply repeat what others have said previously and I hate to follow in those footsteps. Today’s average reader can conduct a Google search on almost everything, so there is little that needs to be said about gardening. Sometimes, however, the information available lacks accuracy, so repeating a topic is not always a bad thing.
One topic I’m sure I have covered numerous times in the past is herbicides called sterilants. So why do I need to write about this again? After all, I hadn’t seen damage caused by these herbicides for possibly fifteen years so it was quite exciting to be called to diagnose the cause of dead and dying trees resulting from a methyl-thio triazine, diuron or bromacil, poisoning. These chemicals are sterilants and cause similar symptoms. They are typically root absorbed and kill most plants in the treated area. These products are usually quite soluble and thus move down slope into neighboring properties and along drain ditches. Thankfully, I can’t find any previous article on sterilants so I won’t bore you with the details, but I need to warn you that these products should never be used in, or near, landscaped areas.
I’m not sure if the perpetrator found a bag of old herbicide and decided to put it to use, had vandalism in mind or simply misread the label, but the leaves on trees still alive had the characteristic symptoms of these herbicides. Plants affected by these herbicides have leaves where the main veins are chlorotic and the interveinal tissue remains green. It is possible the perpetrator thought they were fertilizing the trees, but instead was applying a chemical that would kill them.
If the perpetrator had pulled out their smartphone and done a Google search to learn about the product they were about to apply, the damage would not have occurred. As a result of not being aware of the problems the product could cause, trees and shrubs on the treated property are toast. Trees in the neighboring property also show symptoms of the herbicide.
So what now? Soil sterilants last in the soil for many months, even years, so the planting of new trees and shrubs in the near future is out of the question, unless the chemical is inactivated. The best approach to correcting the problem is to determine the chemical causing the problem. Once that is known it may be possible to deactivate the chemical. How deep is deep enough and how much activated charcoal will be needed are questions only answered with a chemical analysis of the soil. This is a very costly mistake that could have been prevented with a Google search using the name of the active ingredients as the keywords.
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