This past Saturday at the farmers' market, a guy who often buys things from us came to our stand with a tomato leaf wondering what was wrong with it. This sort of thing happens regularly to us, people asking for gardening advice, and Eugene and I give it out freely.
Okay, so this guy has this tomato leaf and is wondering what is wrong with his plants. He describe horrible fungal problems and that the bottom leaves were turning yellow and falling off. The leaf looked fine on first inspection, except for some sort of white stuff that had burned the tip of the leaf . I noticed that he did have aphids on his tomato leaf and said he could get rid of his aphid problem by putting a humming bird feeder or getting some ladybugs on his plants as long as he had not already used any pesticides. At that point he said he had used Sevin to get rid of the fungus problems which made Eugene recoil in horror and quickly give back the leaf which he had been examining.
I than started explaining that Sevin is a pesticide, not an herbicide and you cannot use Sevin and than start using natural methods and expect good result. I told him that the sevin had killed off not only the pest insects but also the beneficial predator insects and that because the pests are at the bottom of the food chain they are in much much great numbers and reproduce much more quickly and would be back several weeks before the predators begin to recover and he would actually end up with a far worse problem than is he had done nothing and let nature do the work for him. This seem to go over his head but he did ask how to deal with the aphids without using Sevin and I said soap spray is pretty effective as long as he sprays both the tops and bottoms of the leaves. I also mentioned that Sevin dust is only truly effective if the tops and bottoms of the leaves are dusted with it and he asked how to do this and I said you put it in a shaker and make a cloud of dust around the plant and that will do the trick (we organic people do use natural pesticides in dust for such as Bt so I have experience here). Than I told him you cannot breath in the dust because it is very toxic to humans so if he opted to keep using the stuff he would need a Haz-Mat suit and a good breathing apparatus. This seemed to alarm him a bit and he went away.
He came back later and again asked about his garden and mentioned using Sevin again and felt he could not have a good garden without resorting to this heavy duty poison. Betty Quantz, who was at our stand at the time, looked horrified and said loudly to never use such stuff, that Sevin was an Agent Orange ingredient (I don't know if it is true since AO is an herbicide and we are talking insecticides, but it was effective to get it across to this guy he was dealing with some bad stuff). Than the guy asked "But how can I have clean vegetables without using pesticides" and Betty looked at him and said look at Eugene and Lucy's produce, it is clean and they use zero poisons (which is true on both counts) and have a huge garden. He looked thoughtful and scampered away. Perhaps some of this sunk in and he will start using organic methods, perhaps not. But he did get an earful at market.
Now my main problem with all of this is not that he was using really toxic crap that kills off any insect it touches thus spinning the environment more our of balance (this does bother me a lot, don't get me wrong here). No, my main problem is with people who use these dangerous chemicals with no clue (which seems to be most of America). He was using Sevin for a fungal problem when it is an insecticide. By Federal law it states clearly on the label what it is to be used for and also states it is unlawful to use such products in an incorrect manner (which he was doing). People do not read the labels so they pump deadly poisons into the ecosystem needlessly. Look folks, if you garden do us all a favor and gets some books and read up on plant pests and diseases. Learn what the chemicals are in your garden shed and how to use them (it's on the labels and is the law fer chrissake) or better yet learn about organic methods and get rid of those nasty chemicals (but please do not just toss them down the drain or in a landfill, get rid of them properly). There are literally thousands of books and websites about gardening make use of these. there is really no excuse for the ignorance I see over garden chemicals. I wish the feds would make a law that required ALL gardeners who use toxins to take the pesticide applicator classes and test that all conventional farmers have to take. Of course if that happened corporations such as Dow and Monsanto would not make nearly as much $$$ because there would be a lot less wasting of garden chemicals due to wrong usage. But the planet would a lot less of the toxic load it now has since most of the toxic chem use comes from home gardeners, not farmers.
It is quite possible to grow a beautiful and bountiful garden with zero poisons, I have been making my living doing this for over a decade. Granted there is a steep learning curve and it takes years to get a garden ecosystem back in balance but that's the thing about gardening as a hobby-you are always learning new things. And if you get rid of the poisons you will start seeing wonderful life returning to your garden ecosystem to help you out. Remember that 97% of all insects are beneficial during some point in their life cycle and that alone is ample reason to go organic but there are millions of others.