‘Rogue’ Miracle Gro Employee Gets 90 Days for Pesticide Scandal

 

$40 million in mislabeled pesticides cost one employee 90 days in jail.

TUCSON, ARIZONA — As members of the Kingdome Christian Center Church sobbed openly in a Columbus, Ohio, courtroom Friday morning, Miracle Gro’s chief environmental officer was about to board a plane to Tucson.

While the Reverend Lonnie R. Keene pleaded for leniency for Sheila R. Kendrick, one of his most valued employees, Rich Shank was plotting how to make the sad story go away in front of 600 or so garden writers at their annual national convention.

If only there were a pesticide he could spray for such a bad public relations problem.

‘IT DOESN’T PASS THE SNIFF TEST’

Sheila Kendrick, now 45, was by all accounts a valued and trusted employee of Scotts Miracle Gro for 16 years beginning in 1992. When the company was busted in 2008 for selling tens of thousands of dollars of mislabled pesticides — leading to the largest set of pesticide fines ($12.5 million) ever handed down by the federal government earlier this year — Kendrick took the fall and offered up a guilty plea in exchange for a 90-day prison sentence.

When the sentencing day came Friday, however, her friends, family and fellow church goers and staffers couldn’t contain their emotions. This was not a woman who fit anyone’s criminal profile.

“Sheila is a wonderful person,” said her attorney David Axelrod.

“Her job at our church will be waiting for her when she returns,” said the Reverend Keene.

The judge in the case didn’t budge and stuck to the 90-day plea bargain, noting that she could have faced up to six years in prison and a $350,000 fine given the severity of the plot she allegedly masterminded — singlehandedly. Nearly $40 million worth of illegal products known as Miracle-Gro Shake ’n’ Feed with Weed Preventer All Purpose Plant Food and Turf Builder Plus 2 Max reportedly made it to the marketplace based on falsified documentation.

Back at Scotts Miracle Gro, the company would have everyone believe that Kendrick was either lazy, or malicious, or both.

“No one else in the company knew about the illegal activities of one of our associates,” said megalomaniacal company president Jim Hagedorn in an open letter on the company’s web site in September.

Saturday morning in Tucson Rich Shank attempted to distance the company from Kendrick, saying she was part of a problem the that Hagedorn regime inherited during Miracle Gro’s angry takeover of Scotts back in 1995. Yet she continued to work for the company for 13 more years.

“It’s a joke, it doesn’t pass the sniff test even a little bit for them to pin this on one employee as if no one else knew,” said a prominent garden writer from the west coast. “Sheila was one of the most loved people in that building for a long, long time. They want us to believe that she wasn’t part of a much larger company culture? Incredible.”

 

 

Article source: http://www.safelawns.org/blog/2012/10/rogue-miracle-gro-employee-gets-90-days-for-pesticide-scandal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rogue-miracle-gro-employee-gets-90-days-for-pesticide-scandal

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Scotts Miracle Gro Fined $12.5 Million in Pesticide Case

NOTE: As SafeLawns reported back in January, Scotts Miracle Gro pleaded guilty to illegal sales and labeling of pesticides. At the time, the fine was believed to be $4.5 million. Today the EPA announced the total will be $12.5 million:

CONTACT:
Enesta Jones
jones.enesta@epa.gov
202-564-7873
202-564-4355

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 7, 2012

Scotts Miracle-Gro Will Pay $12.5 Million in Criminal Fines and Civil Penalties for Violations of Federal Pesticide Laws

WASHINGTON — The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, a producer of pesticides for commercial and consumer lawn and garden uses, was sentenced today in federal district court in Columbus, Ohio, to pay a $4 million fine and perform community service for eleven criminal violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which governs the manufacture, distribution, and sale of pesticides. Scotts pleaded guilty in February 2012 to illegally applying insecticides to its wild bird food products that are toxic to birds, falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels, and distributing unregistered pesticides. This is the largest criminal penalty under FIFRA to date.

In a separate civil agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scotts agreed to pay more than $6 million in penalties and spend $2 million on environmental projects to resolves additional civil pesticide violations. The violations include distributing or selling unregistered, canceled, or misbranded pesticides, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions. This is the largest civil settlement under FIFRA to date.

“The misuse or mislabeling of pesticide products can cause serious illness in humans and be toxic to wildlife,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s sentence and unprecedented civil settlement hold Scotts accountable for widespread company noncompliance with pesticide laws, which put products into the hands of consumers without the proper authorization or warning labels.”

“As the world’s largest marketer of residential use pesticides, Scotts has a special obligation to make certain that it observes the laws governing the sale and use of its products. For having failed to do so, Scotts has been sentenced to pay the largest fine in the history of FIFRA enforcement,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with EPA to assure that pesticides applied in homes and on lawns and food are sold and used in compliance with the laws intended to assure their safety.”

In the plea agreement, Scotts admitted that it applied the pesticides Actellic 5E and Storcide II to its bird food products even though EPA had prohibited this use. Scotts had done so to protect its bird foods from insect infestation during storage. Scotts admitted that it used these pesticides contrary to EPA directives and in spite of the warning label appearing on all Storicide II containers stating, “Storcide II is extremely toxic to fish and toxic to birds and other wildlife.” Scotts sold this illegally treated bird food for two years after it began marketing its bird food line and for six months after employees specifically warned Scotts management of the dangers of these pesticides. By the time it voluntarily recalled these products in March 2008, Scotts had sold more than 70 million units of bird food illegally treated with pesticide that is toxic to birds.

Scotts also pleaded guilty to submitting false documents to EPA and to state regulatory agencies in an effort to deceive them into believing that numerous pesticides were registered with EPA when in fact they were not. The company also pleaded guilty to having illegally sold the unregistered pesticides and to marketing pesticides bearing labels containing false and misleading claims not approved by EPA. The falsified documents submitted to EPA and states were attributed to a federal product manager at Scotts.

In addition to the $4 million criminal fine, Scotts will contribute $500,000 to organizations that protect bird habitat, including $100,000 each to the Ohio Audubon’s Important Bird Area Program, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Urban Forestry Program, the Columbus Metro-Parks Bird Habitat Enhancement Program, the Cornell University Ornithology Laboratory, and The Nature Conservancy of Ohio to support the protection of bird populations and habitats through conservation, research, and education.

At the time the criminal violations were discovered, EPA also began a civil investigation that uncovered numerous civil violations spanning five years. Scotts’ FIFRA civil violations included the nationwide distribution or sale of unregistered, canceled, or misbranded pesticides, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions. As a result, EPA issued more than 40 Stop Sale, Use or Removal Orders to Scotts to address more than 100 pesticide products.

In addition to the $6 million civil penalty, Scotts will complete environmental projects, valued at $2 million, to acquire, restore and protect 300 acres of land to prevent runoff of agricultural chemicals into nearby waterways.

The criminal case was investigated by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Environmental Enforcement Unit of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Bureau of Criminal Identification Investigation. It was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Jeremy F. Korzenik of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, by Michael J. McClary, EPA Criminal Enforcement Counsel and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney and by Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Marous.

The civil case was investigated by U.S. EPA Region 5’s Land and Chemicals Division and Office of Regional Counsel, and the U.S. EPA Headquarters Office of Civil Enforcement, assisted by the Office of Pesticides Program.

More information about the civil settlement and recalled products: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/fifra/scottsmiraclegro.html

Article source: http://www.safelawns.org/blog/index.php/2012/09/scotts-miracle-gro-fined-12-5-million-in-pesticide-case/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=scotts-miracle-gro-fined-12-5-million-in-pesticide-case

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Massive Fine Isn’t the End of Miracle Gro’s Disaster

Scotts Miracle Gro’s tainted bird seed and mislabeled pesticides are symptoms of a corrupt organization, according to a class-action lawsuit against the company.

Class-Action Lawsuit Alleges Mafia-Like Activity

Miracle Gro Boss Says One Employee Acted Alone in Misleading Government

Yesterday the Justice Department handed down $12.5 million worth of fines and penalties, but that only lengthened the long line of trouble likely awaiting the world’s largest lawn and garden chemical company.

At least a dozen, perhaps more civil lawsuits are in the works against Scotts Miracle Gro as a result of its February 2012 admission that it knowingly tainted bird seed with pesticides that are toxic to birds and otherwise mis-led pesticide regulators in the sales and labeling of more than 100 products. A class-action lawsuit is being readied and lawyers are aggressively seeking consumers who purchased an estimated 73 million tainted bags of Scotts birdseed between November of 2005 and March of 2008. Even though Scotts was warned by members of its own staff that the seed was tainted with pesticides, the company knowingly sold the products under several brand names, including “Morning Song,” “Country Pride,” “Scotts Songbird Selections” and “Scotts Wild Bird Food.”

“Scotts failed to disclose that its bird seed contained pesticides that were known to be highly toxic to birds,” states the class-action lawsuit. “Instead, defendant knowingly sold millions of units of its defective and toxic bird feed products, knowing the products would be widely used to feed birds at purchasers’ homes, in back yards and in wild and natural environments across the United States. Due to defendant’s concealment of material information regarding its use of toxic chemicals in its products, defendant’s products were not appropriate for their intended and marketed use as bird feed, and were not worth the purchase price paid by plaintiffs and the class. As a result of defendant’s criminal enterprise, thousands of American consumers and other purchasers across the country did not receive the benefit of their bargain and were damaged.”

The class-action suit, according to reports, seeks more than $5 million in compensatory and treble damages for claims that fall under the law that covers mafia-like activity and other ongoing criminal organizations (RICO) and alleges violations of consumer fraud and unfair trade practices laws in several states. The case was brought forward by Douglas Dowd and Alex Lumaghi of Dowd Dowd and John Driscoll in St. Louis, Missouri.

The story of the $12.5 million fine, carried on several major news outlets, lit the blogosphere afire Friday night and into this morning.

“Scumbags!” stated one observer. “No fine is big enough,” said another. “For 70 million units sold? Fair fine? How much do their top dogs make?” asked yet another.

STILL IN DENIAL

Only time will tell if the latest news will truly hit Miracle Gro’s bottom line at the peak of the fall lawn care season. When the stock market closed Friday, just as the news of the fine began to spread, Miracle Gro was up to 43.21 per share — a significant increase over recent negative fluctuations — although financial forecasters do predict the stock will dip Monday.

In posting its acknowledgement of the largest pesticide-related fines in American history on its web site, Scotts Miracle Gro’s release said the company “neither admits nor denies the allegations” related to the mislabeling of products. The CEO Jim Hagedorn continues to insist that one long-time employee — Sheila Kendrick — bore all the responsibility for the five-year ruse.

“No one else in the company knew about the illegal activities of one of our associates,” said Hagedorn, who has not offered an explanation as to a possible motive of a woman who was, by many accounts, much beloved by her co-workers.

In an open letter posted on the company’s web site late yesterday, Hagedorn also stated that coating the bird seed with pesticides to avoid infestation from insects “is a standard practice in the wild bird food industry” and Scotts issued reports that the tainted seed came as the result of “three rogue employees.”

Hagedorn went on to assure readers that the company had taken steps to assure nothing like that would ever happen again — and ultimately hopes that consumers believe the $12.5 million fines and penalties were the result of the actions of four misguided employees rather than a corrupt company culture.

Article source: http://www.safelawns.org/blog/index.php/2012/09/massive-fine-isnt-the-end-of-miracle-gros-disaster/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=massive-fine-isnt-the-end-of-miracle-gros-disaster

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Miracle Gro for Mitt: Scotts Throws its Weakened Financial Might Behind Romney

To All Democrats and Independents Who Garden . . . LISTEN UP: If Miracle Gro Votes with its Wallet, So Should The Rest of Us

Long miffed by what he considers to be the nuisance of environmental safety regulation, Scotts Miracle Gro Czar Jim Hagedorn is voting with his brand’s wallet in 2012.

Concluding that his fertilizer and pesticide company will have an easier time of getting its products past regulators under a Republican administration, Hagedorn recently authorized a $200,000 donation to a superfund that supports Mitt Romney for president.

The very public move concerns many within the Ohio company, who fear a Chick-fil-A style backlash from customers who support Democrats. Company spokesperson Jim King, however, said Hagedorn, as usual, couldn’t be muzzled.

“His point of view was, ‘If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it in the light of day,’ ” King told the Washington Post.


Hagedorn’s frustrations have reportedly been boiling over in the past year as the company’s stock has plummeted and sales have failed to reach expectations for the third consecutive year. Scotts Miracle-Gro’s fiscal third-quarter earnings declined 16 percent, according to a recent announcement. Shares of the lawn-and-garden products company were down 6.9% to $38.55 after hours as results missed analyst expectations, although the past week has seen the stock rebound slightly.

The man who infamously declared “business is war” and hung the “Don’t Treat on Me” flag outside the corportate office, was unabashedly candid in his letter to shareholders earlier this year:

“I have always written this letter with a straightforward approach and with transparency about our performance. So it would be insincere to adopt a new style simply because I didn’t like the outcome. So here are the facts: our financial performance in fiscal 2011 was disappointing as sales, gross margin, operating profit, earnings per share and cash flow all were lower than we expected.”

This followed massive dips in sales since 2009 when the company’s revenues peaked at above $3 billion.

So frustrated by his inability to right his company himself, yet again, the Miracle Gro boss hopes Romney can come to the rescue.

The question must be asked of all who vote Democrat or Independent, however. If it’s OK for Miracle Gro to vote with its wallet, shouldn’t we vote with ours, too?

Article source: http://www.safelawns.org/blog/index.php/2012/08/miracle-grow-for-mitt-scotts-throws-its-weakened-financial-might-behind-romney/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=miracle-grow-for-mitt-scotts-throws-its-weakened-financial-might-behind-romney

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Miracle Grow for Mitt: Scotts Throws its Weakened Financial Might Behind Romney

To All Democrats and Independents Who Garden . . . LISTEN UP: If Miracle Gro Votes with its Wallet, So Should The Rest of Us

Long miffed by what he considers to be the nuisance of environmental safety regulation, Scotts Miracle Gro Czar Jim Hagedorn is voting with his brand’s wallet in 2012.

Concluding that his fertilizer and pesticide company will have an easier time of getting its products past regulators under a Republican administration, Hagedorn recently authorized a $200,000 donation to a superfund that supports Mitt Romney for president.

The very public move concerns many within the Ohio company, who fear a Chick-fil-A style backlash from customers who support Democrats. Company spokesperson Jim King, however, said Hagedorn, as usual, couldn’t be muzzled.

“His point of view was, ‘If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it in the light of day,’ ” King told the Washington Post.


Hagedorn’s frustrations have reportedly been boiling over in the past year as the company’s stock has plummeted and sales have failed to reach expectations for the third consecutive year. Scotts Miracle-Gro’s fiscal third-quarter earnings declined 16 percent, according to a recent announcement. Shares of the lawn-and-garden products company were down 6.9% to $38.55 after hours as results missed analyst expectations, although the past week has seen the stock rebound slightly.

The man who infamously declared “business is war” and hung the “Don’t Treat on Me” flag outside the corportate office, was unabashedly candid in his letter to shareholders earlier this year:

“I have always written this letter with a straightforward approach and with transparency about our performance. So it would be insincere to adopt a new style simply because I didn’t like the outcome. So here are the facts: our financial performance in fiscal 2011 was disappointing as sales, gross margin, operating profit, earnings per share and cash flow all were lower than we expected.”

This followed massive dips in sales since 2009 when the company’s revenues peaked at above $3 billion.

So frustrated by his inability to right his company himself, yet again, the Miracle Gro boss hopes Romney can come to the rescue.

The question must be asked of all who vote Democrat or Independent, however. If it’s OK for Miracle Gro to vote with its wallet, shouldn’t we vote with ours, too?

Article source: http://www.safelawns.org/blog/index.php/2012/08/miracle-grow-for-mitt-scotts-throws-its-weakened-financial-might-behind-romney/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=miracle-grow-for-mitt-scotts-throws-its-weakened-financial-might-behind-romney

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What’s Right With This Picture? Joe Knows

At a Home Depot in Rhode Island these three insect-killing products were side by side and priced identically yesterday. Only one of them is safe to use around your home, however.

It’s that time of year here in New England when most lawns have been fertilized and most dandelions have passed and gone to seed, if they weren’t killed by the weed ‘n feed. So the stores have begun pushing the insect killers instead.

I nearly tripped over this display, above, at my local Home Depot last night while hurriedly looking for any organic potting soil that WASN’T manufactured by Scotts Miracle Gro.

All three of these bottles contain products to kill insects and all were selling for seven bucks on a special. And one of them is actually safe enough to use around our kids, pets and water bodies.

I just had to take out my iPhone to snap this shot. Just a few years ago the idea of a natural, safe product in every Home Depot, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart across the nation would have been unthinkable. And the idea that such a product would sell for the same price as cheap synthetic chemicals? That would have been pure fantasy.

EcoSMART’s suppliers actually have to grow their ingredients in a field somewhere; they can’t just stir them up in a chemical pot. They contract with agents for herb farmers for their peppermint and rosemary oils. And when you look at their labels on their containers they actually spell everything out clearly.

Whereas Ortho and Spectracide hide behind the word “inert” for all the ingredients in their products that they don’t want to tell us about, EcoSMART tells us its insect killer contains 91 percent “other ingredients” and then lists them. All of them.

The most conspicuous things you WON’T find on the label of an EcoSMART container are the words CAUTION, WARNING or DANGER, or KEEP OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN.

As much as I was delighted to see EcoSMART standing toe to toe with the synthetic chemical products last night, I couldn’t help but notice that the store’s merchandiser was providing twice the retail space for the toxic chemical products. That, according to the department manager, was simply a factor of sales. More people were coming through the door looking for the poisons due to a larger, louder marketing message. And more people were buying the poisons due to the perception that they killed the bugs more dead.

“I use the EcoSMART and it works,” said Joe, the department manager. “But sometimes you can’t convince the customer that something containing herbs is really going to work.”

It’s catching on, though, according to Joe.

“Hey, I didn’t even know about EcoSMART until two years ago when it showed up here,” he said. “I’ve restocked the EcoSMART three times this week, so I think it’s here to stay. It’s good stuff.”

Joe knows a good thing when he sees one.

Article source: http://www.safelawns.org/blog/index.php/2012/06/whats-right-with-this-picture-joe-knows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=whats-right-with-this-picture-joe-knows

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Former Scotts Exec Joins SafeLawns Founder to Launch Consulting Firm

Paul Tukey, Mark Long Form Organic Green Pros

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JUNE 4, 2012

Consulting Firm to Focus on Sustainability, Safety

For years they were adversaries, one man helping to grow a huge lawn chemical service company just as the other man railed against it.

Signaling a sea change in the lawn care industry former Scotts Miracle Gro vice president Mark Long and SafeLawns Foundation founder Paul Tukey announced the launch of Organic Green Pros (www.organicgreenpros.com), a nationwide consulting service aimed at helping municipalities, businesses, homeowners and the horticulture industry in general become more sustainable in their landscaping practices.

“Historically, our industry has not always had the best reputation for environmental stewardship, and perhaps deservedly so,” said Long, who was recruited to launch Scotts LawnService nationally in 1997. By the time he left Scotts in 2005 revenues exceeded $150 million, with more than 70 corporate locations and 1,200 employees serving 350,000 customers. “Today the nation is demanding a different kind of approach that considers our impact on the environment, human health and the planet overall. I’m excited to work with the leader in that conversation to effect real change.”

For Tukey, author of the Organic Lawn Care Manual and called “the godfather of the organic lawn movement” by the New York Times and others, working with the founder of the nation’s second largest synthetic chemical lawn care service company represents a huge opportunity, not a change of heart.

“Mark’s 30-year operational track record in lawn care is unsurpassed,” said Tukey. “You won’t find anyone more respected, with more sincerity. He’s a great guy with tremendous family values. Together we’ll show cities how to green their parks and playgrounds safely and affordably. We’ll show lawn care companies how to satisfy customer needs while striving for SafeLawns standards and maintaining profitability.”

Long and Tukey will assist their clients by tapping their international network of industry experts and product sources. They will continue to offer educational and inspirational seminars to municipalities, businesses and civic groups.

“This is an exciting way to give back to the industry,” said Long, who counts a diverse list including HomeTeam Pest Defense, Orkin, TruGreen among many others as consulting clients at Blue SkyGroup, LLC. Tukey, meanwhile, has led a variety of projects with the National Parks Service, the City of Boston and the Glenstone Museum, among many others.

For more information, contact Paul@SafeLawns.org.

Article source: http://69.167.148.171/blog/index.php/2012/06/former-scotts-exec-joins-safelawns-founder-to-launch-consulting-firm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=former-scotts-exec-joins-safelawns-founder-to-launch-consulting-firm

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Guest Blog: Rethinking the Traditional American Lawn, Part I

High Country Gardens specializes in drought-tolerant plants.

AS A PART OF OUR ongoing campaign to reduce the impact of the American lawn, we launched guest blog series with our sponsoring partners at High Country Gardens in New Mexico.

Rethinking the Traditional American Lawn is a four-part series by High Country Gardens Founder and Chief Horticulturist, David Salman. Salman also writes The Xeric Gardener. We’re excited to have High Country Gardens and the Salman family on board with this mission to represent a part of the country where water resources, especially, are most precious. The great information provided, whether or not you live in an area where droughts are common, is superior.

News Flash: Americans Are Working Too Hard . . . Chemical lawn-care companies have us working a lot harder and spending a lot more money than we should.

SANTA FE, N.M. — As pressed as we are for time, it’s mind-boggling how much of it we spend mowing, watering, weeding, spraying and fertilizing our lawns, when the only real attention we need to give them is the long look of love that we planted them for in the first place. Some folks can barely find time to shave once a week, much less mow their grass.

The comic part is, we create this extra work for ourselves. Mega lawn-care companies, like Scotts Miracle Gro, led us into a bad cycle that we’ll have to pull ourselves out of if we want to stop overworking and start enjoying.

It starts with intolerance for dandelions, which inspires us to use numerous “weed and feed” products that are sold like lawn candy in every garden center and big box store across the country. These herbicide-loaded fertilizers weaken every non-grass plant (like trees and shrubs) with roots under and around the lawn. In this weakened state, insect attack is a common result. In response, Americans pour millions of pounds of nitrogen chemical fertilizers (with or without herbicides) on their lawns each year to counter the negative effects of weed-killing, and this eventually leads to the next rickety step in the cycle of insanity — water waste.

Chemical fertilizers go one dangerous step beyond simply rejuvenating our lawns after the weed-killing fallout — they send the grass into hyper-growth during the hottest time of the year, forcing us to water more and, subsequently, adopt an unceasing schedule of weekly mowing. And what’s the end result? A slew of other problems, including increased soil salinity, soil compaction, shallow roots, insect attack, more lawn diseases, more water waste and — what I sometimes find most tragic of all — more work.

High Country Gardens, in partnership with SafeLawns.org, wants to help lawn-lovers get off this hamster wheel of work, water and expense.

Part One: Choosing low-work and low-water lawn grasses
Native grass species such as blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) and buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides) are well adapted to drier conditions and a variety of soil types. These are warm-season grasses that withstand moderate foot traffic and require about 2 inches of rainfall (or irrigation) per month to stay green. They are also very drought tolerant and have roots that will survive without water during extended dryness. These two native species are best for yards that don’t get a lot of foot traffic or hard use by dogs and kids.

NEW PLUG-GROWN buffalo grass varieties have been developed specifically for lawn use. These improved varieties like ‘Legacy’®, ‘Prestige’™ and ‘UC Verde’® are dense, low-growing types planted as plugs and spread via runners growing across the soil surface which eventually knit into a beautiful, low-care lawn.

‘Hachita’ blue grama grass is a bunch grass that’s grown from seed. Seeded at a rate of 3-4 pounds per 1,000 square feet, it forms a dense carpet of grass that needs infrequent mowing or that can be left to seed out with its very ornamental eyelash seed heads in late summer.

NEW TYPES OF non-native lawn grasses are also excellent for planting lower water, low-maintenance lawns. These new dwarf fescue and blue grass varieties have been developed to grow much more slowly and, given an organic care regimen, produce a durable, low-care lawn that requires little or no mowing. While not as drought-tolerant as the native grama and buffalo grasses, they use considerably less water than Kentucky blue grass or tall fescue types.

‘Bella’ bluegrass

A. ‘Bella’ blue grass is a dwarf lawn grass with very deep roots that spreads via runners to form a dense, bright green lawn thriving in sun, partial sun and dappled shade. ‘Bella’ only grows to a height of 3 inches and never needs mowing. It is especially useful where mowing is difficult, such as enclosed, tight spaces and slopes.

B. The ‘Low Work and Water’ and ‘No Mow’ grass mixes are seed grown, dwarf fescue types and are excellent as low care lawns. They are quick to establish with the seed germinating in both warm and cool weather. The ‘Low Work and Water’ lawn is ideal for play and higher foot traffic areas over much of the country. The ‘No Mow’ lawn is an excellent choice for informal lawns in sun and partial shade in cooler climates. Left unmowed, the ‘No Mow’ grass blades lie down and swirl, creating a soft, graceful texture. It can be mowed monthly to maintain a more formal look.

Check back here next Monday for the second part of our series, in which we’ll discuss the concept of meadows and prairies as eco-friendly alternatives to the traditional lawn, as well as how to go about deciding which kind of lawn planting is best for your plot. Till then, happy lawning!

Article source: http://www.safelawns.org/blog/index.php/2012/03/guest-blog-rethinking-the-traditional-american-lawn-part-i-2/

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The Augusta Syndrome: 45 Years Later, Is Golf the Environment’s Worst Nightmare?

This GoogleMaps image depicts how the Augusta National Country Club really appears when the cameras are not on.

Few industries around the world can point to a single weekend as the date of their origin. Sure, lawn care has been around ever since kings ordered peasants to scythe their meadows for comfortable strolling, but in terms of the modern lawn care industry it really all began during the second weekend of April of 1967 — the first time the Masters golf tournament was broadcast live to America in full technicolor green.

The men of America couldn’t golf like Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus, or even Gay Brewer, who won the storied tournament that year, but they soon aspired to what they thought was the next best thing: an emerald green fairway front lawn of their own.

And every year since then — 45 years and counting — the guys have raced out to the lawn and garden supply stores, or jumped on the phone with their lawn care company, and immediately expected Augusta National Country Club conditions for their own grass. For the professionals who care for grass, either on golf courses or in home yards, the “Augusta Syndrome” is a love-hate relationship between financial opportunity and unrealistic expectations of their patrons and customers. For the manufacturers like Scotts Miracle Gro, Bayer and others, America’s obsession with Masters green has been a pure gold excuse to print their own money.

This GoogleMaps view shows drained ponds and blotched fairways when the Masters tournament ends.

TRULY GREEN?

“The Masters golf tournament is a nightmare for us every year,” said Mike Bailey, the superintendent of the Whitlock Country Club in Hudson, Quebec, the first town in North America that ever banned lawn and garden pesticides on all property — except golf courses and farms. “We’re sitting up here in Canada in April when the grass hasn’t even broken dormancy most years, and yet our members show up the week after the Masters and expect our course to look like a golf course 2,000 miles to the south.”

The Augusta National Country Club is an easy target for advocates like me and others who are attempting to reduce pesticide use by changing aesthetic expectations and drawing attention to the health and environmental impacts of excessive pesticide and fertilizer use.

Ron Dodson, the president of Audubon International that has certified golf courses for their environmental stewardship, famously denounced Augusta National Country Club as a “television studio on which a golf tournament is played in the spring.” The club reportedly dyes ponds blue or black to hide algae bloom, spray paints grass to make it look more green in years when the newly planted ryegrass isn’t flourishing and even refrigerates, or warms, the azaleas so that they’ll be in perfect bloom for the second weekend in April. Rumors have it that this year Hollywood set designers have been brought in to Augusta to hide damage caused by the lawn chemical weed killer Imprelis that was found last year to kill trees as a side effect.

The pressure to make Augusta National look perfect for a week each year is immense — and certainly still at the core of our nation’s obsession with lawn care aesthetics. You want to take a look at what the word’s most famous golf course really looks like when the cameras are off? It’s easy. Go to GoogleMaps.com and type in “Augusta National Country Club.” Click on the satellite button and then begin to zoom in. What you’ll find is grass that probably looks a lot like your grass. You’ll see bare patches and faded greens. You’ll find empty rubber-lined holes in the earth where those made-for-TV ponds were filled when the cameras were on. It’s a rather scorched earth appearance that most people wouldn’t imagine when they think of the Masters.

BUT IS GOLF THE ENEMY?

But if the premise is correct that the Masters started all of this environmental mess related to golf and expectations, is it still fair nearly a half century later to paint the golf industry with an environmental black mark overall? That answer is more complicated.

The historical horror stories are rampant. Jeff Carlson, who runs one of the nation’s premiere organic courses on Martha’s Vineyard, has talked openly about living next door to the storage shed at a golf course when he was younger. He would stir chemicals with his bare hands and ignore protective gear — until exposure to the chemicals caused his wife’s hair to fall out and made her gravely ill.

Phil Catron, founder of Naturalawn of America and a former executive at ChemLawn, told me about so many of his colleagues who are now gone, killed by what he feels was excessive exposure to chemicals. Those kinds of anecdotal images can make one wonder why we still have golf and lawn chemicals in the first place.

Ultimately, though, it’s not entirely the golf industry’s fault. Golf superintendents, led the examples of Carlson and others, have by and large cleaned up their act. The Audubon folks enlist more and more courses in their environmental stewardship program each year. Many of the men and women in the golf industry that I’ve come across wouldn’t spray anything at all if they didn’t have to. Many who do spray as a part of their course maintenance protocols use as little toxic material as possible, put up warning signs on the course and dress appropriately.

The real issue is expectations and marketing. Golf can be played amongst a few weeds and brown patches, but customers who have been overtly and subliminally motivated by ad dollars, don’t want to hear it.

“If I didn’t have the full support of my membership, an organic golf course wouldn’t work,” said Carlson. “We can create a championship-caliber golf course, but it’s not going to look the same as a course that sprays with synthetic chemical weed killers and fungicides. We’re going to have a few blemishes. We’re going to led the weeds grow off the fairways. Our members accept that, but not all do. And, at other courses, some of my colleagues will get fired if they let too many weeds grow.”

He shakes his head at the absurdity of it all.

And, yet, in three weeks the Masters tournament will recharge those expectations among consumers. In a couple of weeks, Opening Day of the baseball season will showcase all those “Scotts is Used Here” banners in Major League ballparks. Baseball fans will charge into the landscape supply centers and buy a bagged product that offers the intrinsic promise of Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium at home lawns across North America.

It’s a multi-billion dollar industry based on a big pile of bunk.

So this year, when you watch the Masters, understand one thing: It’s no more realistic for your lawn to look like Augusta National Country Club does for a week in April than it is for your golf game to be on par with Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods.

Article source: http://www.safelawns.org/blog/index.php/2012/03/the-augusta-syndrome-45-years-later-is-golf-the-environments-worst-nightmare/

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Scotts Lawn Service Fined $160,000 for Intentionally Polluting Water

Coming just a month after Scotts Miracle Gro pleaded guilty in federal court to falsifying documents and selling bird seed tainted with pesticide, a the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has fined a Pennsylvania branch of Scotts Lawn Service $160,000 for dumping its waste water directly into a stream.

In June of 2010 a Scotts employee built a syphon system to drain a tank of remaining weed killers, insecticides and synthetic chemical fertilizer. Approximately 1,000 gallons of the toxic material then flowed from a storm drain into a tributary of Thompson Run in Monroeville, Pa.

A Scotts spokesman told Pennsylvania media outlets that a single employee, Ronald F. Vargo, was responsible for the misdeed and said his employment has been terminated.

The DEP heard numerous complaints about the toxic dump from local tenants of a business park complained about a foul odor. Firefighters were called the scene to put up damns in the stream and to shut off the local sewer. Area buildings were evacuated.

On July 25 of 2011, Vargo entered a plea of no contest to unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. He will serve two years probation, pay a $2,500 fine and perform 40 hours of community service.

Article source: http://www.safelawns.org/blog/index.php/2012/02/scotts-lawn-service-fined-160000-for-intentionally-polluting-water/

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