Fertilizer, Weed and Feed, and 2-4D? What is it? Probably you have never heard anything about 2-4D, but you have most likely used it many times on your garden.
A couple of days ago while working on a property, I saw a neighbor spraying something into the sidewalk to kill weeds. I can now, (after many years in the land care business) easily determine from the distance, with accuracy, the type of product that is being used when I see somebody spraying something from a bottle. In this case it was a well known herbicide. After 11 years applying organic products, I can identify the sweet smell of chicken poop, (yes, it smells sweet to me..), the mint scent from the catfish fertilizer, the earthy smell from the compost… but there is something different once you smell weed and feed, or any product containing 2-4-D, (also known as 2-4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid).
Today, I talked to a very nice person. She just finished spraying her walkway with a very potent weed killer containing 2-4D. She thought it was safe, because is a readily available product, sold in every garden center or hardware store. What most people know is that if a product wasn’t safe, it would not be sold in stores. Everybody use those products, and those product makers, make them look easy to spread and make them cheap. With tiny little words that are incomprehensible to most of us. Besides, how many times have we ever read the label on a pesticide bottle? What’s the active and inert ingredient in a bottle?
Under laboratory studies, and according to the EPA, pesticide toxicity class ranges from I-III. Being I the most toxic, and III less toxic. 2-4D, and products containing this element are considered class I. Besides from being highly toxic, carcinogenic, endocrine disruptor (interfere with hormone system), neurotoxic, also it has been shown to cause genetic mutations in human, animal and plant cell tests. (NCAP 2000:2, referencing Vigfusson 1980; Kale et al. 1995; Rank et al. 1993).
2-4D was one of the main ingredients in the production of “agent orange”. The problem of using this type of products, apart from what I mentioned before, is that, after this product is sprayed on your property, (like your walkway) it stays active for a long time. It can be brought indoors by yourself on your shoes, by your pet. Your children can bring traces of herbicide on the way back from school, when they walk by your neighbor’s sidewalk, who just applied a whole bottle of weed killer.
So, what are the alternatives for this type of Fertilizer?
There are different products out there that are organic and less toxic than chemicals. Products that I’ve used in the past are Avanger and Burnout. You can also burn weeds on your walkway and avoid using weed killers. Weeds on lawns takes a little bit longer, since every weed tells you something about the soil, and depending on the soil condition, we will be applying several organic products like compost, organic fertilizer, compost tea and more compost. Before you apply anything, make sure to read the label. And next time you apply a weed killer, would you rather use citrus oil and clove oil? Or 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid?