Amidst Wildlife Federation Firestorm, Scotts Miracle Gro Fined $4.5 Million for Toxic Bird Seed, Falsifying Records

UPDATE: Petition Asks NWF to Say No to Scotts’ Sponsorship:


On the same week Scotts Miracle Gro tried to buy an image upgrade by sponsoring the National Wildlife Federation, word has come out of a federal court that the company will pay millions of dollars in fines for selling bird seed it knew was tainted with pesticides toxic to birds.

Though the company had no comment yesterday, it pleaded guilty to charges that it sold 73 MILLION UNITS of tainted bird seed from 2005 to 2008. According to an article in today’s Columbus, Ohio, newspaper, the company continued to sell the bird seed “despite warnings in the summer and fall of 2007 from a pesticide chemist and an ornithologist, both of whom worked for the company.”

The company also pleaded guilty yesterday to falsifying documents with the Environmental Protection Agency so that it could rush new weed ‘n feed and ant killing products to market back in 2006. When Scotts’ fallacy was revealed — after the products containing cancer-causing agents had already been on the market for two years — the company blamed the actions on a single female employee, who was abruptly fired after years with the company.

Many in and around the company called her an obvious “scapegoat,” who unjustifiably took the blame for an error that could not possibly have been hers and hers alone. In a 2008 article in the same Columbus newspaper, Scotts spokesman Jim King admitted the fired employee had a supervisor who reviewed her work, but the supervisor was not terminated according to people within Scotts.

“There aren’t very many people working for Scotts in that end of the company,” said our colleague at Scotts who asked not to be named. “But I knew the woman who was let go very well and it would be completely out of character for her to knowingly falsify records.”

When SafeLawns phoned the woman this morning, she pleasantly declined comment, as she has done previously with other media inquiries.

Meanwhile, our phone and email in-box has been lit up today as the story of Scotts’ latest transgression spreads across North America.

The company, many folks believe, must have known this ruling in federal court was coming down for several months. The timing of the sponsorship with the National Wildlife Federation, announced by NWF on Jan. 18, was clearly designed to draw attention away from what is believed to be the largest fine ever levied on a pesticide company.

“It is whitewashing at the highest, most obvious level,” said Rand Jordan. “I’ve yanked my NWF habitat sign out of my backyard. I’ll never, ever support them again.”

Many called on the National Wildlife Federation to return Scotts’ money and demand that the world’s largest purveyor of lawn and garden poisons change its ways.

“I’m sickened. Just sickened about the whole thing,” said Sue Leonard of Fort Worth, Texas.

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Lawn Mowing: Is It Better To Mulch Or Catch?

I bet the biggest debate in the yard care world is “is it better to mulch my clippings or catch them in the bag?” In fact, in my years in the lawn care industry, I have had customers swear by one way or the other and they just would not listen to reason! :) Let me break this down for ya ok?

Why Mulch Clippings When You Cut

Mulching lawn mowers are ones that clip the grass blades and then grind, slice and cut the pieces into super fine bits before dropping them back into the lawn. This is a very good and “green” practice because you are literally recycling the clippings back into the yard. Remember, 90% of the grass blade is water and the rest is organic nutrients. When you mulch with a properly powered mulching mower, those small clippings dry and shrivel up withing hours and drop their precious nutrients right into the lawn.

A common misconception with mulching is that doing it over and over all year will contribute to a lawn thatch buildup. This is a complete fallacy as I mentioned above, the clipping shrivel almost immediately. Now I will tell you that many homeowners go wrong by trying to convert a non-mulching mower into a mulching mower, and this is asking for problems.

What I mean is they take a cheap, bagging mower and take the bag off and let the clippings fall as they may. Problem here is the mower does not have a mulching blade so clumps drop out! Those clumps will contribute to thatch and kill sections of the lawn! ouch!!!

Another big issue I have seen is that people buy underpowered mulching mowers. Even if you have a mulching lawn mower with a good mulching blade, if it does not pack enough RPMs the bits will fall out in clumps. I dunno why, but many companies make mulching mowers that are just not powerful enough for thicker lawns. I always recommend you get a mulching mower that is a minimum of 5 horse power. This will be enough!

Wait, there are more things to consider: Even if you have a good mulching mower with plenty of power, if the lawn mower deck is not deep enough, the clippings will still fall out too quickly and clump! You want a deep deck!

That’s a lot to consider, so what is the best mulching mower? Look.

Why Catch Grass Clippings

Now that I have hopefully convinced you to mulch, there are a few situations where it will be best to catch and the first one is if your lawn mower is not able to mulch correctly (like I already talked about above). If you can’t go buy a new mower, then just keep catching, but DO NOT try and convert your mower… it ain’t gonna work and it’s a safety hazard anyway!

When to Catch Grass Clippings

I do want you to catch the clippings when you notice a lawn fungus or disease present. If this happens, you want to suck up the clippings and get rid of them. No sense is spreading the spores around. In addition, you need to catch if you have let the lawn grow too tall between cuttings. This can happen if you go on vacation in May, for example, and the lawn overgrows. In this case, even the best mulching mower will leave clumps, so you should catch the stuff just to be safe.

I also recommend you catch at least every 3rd or 4th mowing and use the grass clippings as mulch around annual flowers in your garden. Grass clippings will do a nice job of holding in moisture around annuals. I don’t think grass is a good mulch for regular shrub beds, but it works well for annual flowers.

So what do you think? Wanna argue with me? Go ahead, I’m good with it… maybe you guys can give me some better tips? :)

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