The First Setback

A couple weeks ago Brian and I had the discussion about lawn treatment that I’d been dreading since I started paying attention to warnings about the harmful effects of herbicides and lawn fertilizers. They aren’t safe, despite their general acceptance. He agreed not to let them touch the back yard at all and only apply organic fertilizer (chicken poop) and spot treat weeds in the front and side yards only. I would have preferred no treatment at all, but the lawn is Brian’s territory, so we compromised.

He contacted TruGreen and was very clear about what we wanted. He’d asked for their “TruNatural” lawn treatment. Friday, when I came home from picking the girls up, I dreadfully noticed their little sign sticking out of the ground in the front yard. Haleigh asked if she could take it out and I told her “Yes. And throw it away.” I was embarrassed to have the sign in my yard and there was no way I was advertising for something I don’t believe in. The kids and the dog played in the back yard for hours that afternoon.

Saturday morning, when I came home from the farmers market I noticed the receipt that TruGreen had left stuffed under the door handle. After I unpacked my local, organic produce and pastured, grass fed meats, I took a look at the receipt. There was no mention of organic treatment in the handwritten note and the tiny little boxes for “area treated” were all marked off – front, back and side, as were the boxes for the standard, synthetic nitrogen fertilizer (urea) and weed control (Escalade 2 – 2, 4-D and and prodiamine). I immediately went to the back yard to take a look… and a whiff. My heart sunk. They treated the entire yard with these dangerous chemicals. Around noon, Izzy (our 70 pound lab) began vomiting. She likes to graze. We began limiting her time outdoors and later that day she was feeling better.

After multiple phone calls it seems the technician that sprayed the yard ignored the current order (which clearly states that we ordered the organic treatment) and treated the yard as he had the previous year. They aren’t going to charge us (gee thanks), but there is no way they can repair the damage to my yard, my family, my garden and my budding eco-friendly soul. The good rain we’ve had may have washed some of it away. But it hurts to know that it was applied to my yard against my wishes, and that it’s been carried away, along with the residue from applications of these chemicals in my neighbors’ yards and all over the world, not to mention countless other contaminants, to creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans that are home and drinking water for every living thing on earth.

A nice green, weed-free lawn comes at a high price to us all. I’m not talking about the monetary expense, though it isn’t cheap. Pets, wildlife, children and future generations will pay the highest price. There is plenty of information out there about the dangers of these types of chemicals and I strongly urge you to do your own research. But if you want something to start you off, I recommend these: Lawn Care Chemicals: How Toxic are They? and Health Effects of 30 Lawn Pesticides; and this article: Lawn Care Poison.  The risk and possibility of these dangers is enough for me to avoid them completely when possible. I really encourage you to do some research of your own. You may not agree, but at least you’ll be informed.

Future Garden Area

So, sadly, the organic garden I’d been planning for and dreaming about all winter is defunct. The 40 plus cloves of garlic, rosemary, parsley and strawberries are tainted and although they are probably safe to eat, I am reluctant to feed them to my family. I’ve been anticipating all the organic homegrown produce we might have this year – the few things already mentioned plus beans, tomatoes, lettuces, peppers, zucchini, onions, squash, carrots and more. I’d also planned to plant more herbs near the patio – an area that was definitely treated with herbicide. The clover and weeds I’d planned on pulling out myself are now wilted and yellow.

Garlic - Safe to Eat?


Strawberries wilting from herbicide

More importantly, I remembered that the kids and the dog had played in the freshly applied chemicals all afternoon that Thursday. I began wondering if the eye issues (excessive tearing and lots of thick, yellow discharge) London started having on Friday were the result of exposure to the chemicals. All three of the chemicals used, urea (nitrogen fertilizer), Escalade 2 and prodiamine (herbicides), have warnings regarding eye irritation with exposure. After a quick exam London’s pediatrician (whom we met with before I’d even realized that TruGreen had sprayed the back yard) referred us to an eye specialist (whom we met with on the following Tuesday, after the fact). As I suspected, there’s really no way to say one way or the other whether the chemicals played a role, but it is a possibility. London has a bacterial infection which we’re treating with steroid eye drops and thankfully, there are no signs of any lasting effects.

London: Our smallest princess

I’m also encouraged by some advice from more experienced gardeners who tell me that the food which has already been exposed and that which is yet to be planted should be safe to eat (if it survives – the strawberries probably won’t), after a good washing. One gardener even noted that it is much safer than conventional produce and herbs because they are sprayed with herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers multiple times throughout the growing season. That perspective helps a little, but there’s no denying that’s it’s tainted. The pure, unadulterated, organic food I’d planned to eat isn’t coming from my back yard, this year. But still, my garden will produce cleaner and fresher produce than we’d get from the grocery store. And it will be a lot cheaper than buying it from the farmers market, even it’s not as organic. I’m sure this won’t be the first hurdle. I’m prepared and fully expect to be humbled by mother nature and my lack of gardening experience. Even experienced gardeners fail sometimes. Life’s about the journey, not the destination.

The people at TruGreen have been very nice about the whole thing and are genuinely trying to make it right. We have been doing business with them for years and have never had a problem with their service until now. The GM is very understanding and apologetic and has offered to buy planters and dirt (all organic and sustainable materials) to supplement the areas that were sprayed with the pre-emergent weed control, the effects of which will last 60-90 days. So the potential for an organic herb garden is still alive.


About Michele
Wife and Mom of three girls doing her best to lead the family into a healthier lifestyle and evolve gracefully.

3 Responses to The First Setback

  1. John Martens says:

    I appreciate your information. I regret I had yielded to my gated community pressure and contracted with TruGreen. (My neighborhood looks like their trying to get into Better Homes & Gardens). This morning they applied Escalade 2 on the same day we had an 80% chance of rain and it rained. The kicker is that my lawn backs up to Tennessee Corps of Engineers (Federal land) encircling J. Percy Priest reservoir, I live on a hill and the rain the runs off onto their property. I feel sick right now. I thought I was environmentally conscious. I plan to contact them and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. After speaking to my brother who is a Landscaper they could loose their charter.

  2. healthymamma says:

    I don’t look at “nice lawns” the same anymore. The more “perfect” it looks, the more unhealthy and unnatural it seems to me. It’s hard for anyone, even the environmentally conscious, to learn about and avoid all the many ways we pollute. It took a few generations to get us here and it will take at least as many generations to clean things up. But we have to start somewhere. The first step is to lead by example.

  3. Pingback: Free Organic Produce (Practically) | HealthyMamma's Blog

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