Garden writer Marty Ross got two emails from the PR department of Scotts MiracleGro last week, the first one with this headline and first sentence:
Taking Over Local Lawns
is popping up in lawns all over the area and choking out healthy grass spotting
neighborhood lawns and parks with white flowers." It went on to list details about the where, when, why of clover. Then it came in for the kill, literally.
"How to Stop this: To
completely control clover, the seed and stolon need to be killed by using a
high-quality broadleaf weed killer." The recommended actions include mowing mowing high and, of course, fertilizing: "As
always, the best prevention for clover and all weeds is to follow a regular
feeding program to achieve a lawn that is thick enough to keep weeds like clover
from establishing in the first place."
And for killing, here's the list of recommended products to fix the dire clover problem: Scotts Turf Builder with Plus 2 Weed
Control, Scotts Turf Builder with Plus 2 with
Built-In Spreader, Scotts Liquid Turf Builder Plus
2, Ortho Weed-B-Gon Max Plus Crabgrass
Control, Ortho Weed-B-Gon Max, Ortho Weed-B-Gon
Chickweed, Clover, and Oxalis Killer for Lawns, and Ortho Dial N' Spray Hose End
Sprayer. What an arsenal!
The second email from Scotts followed an identical tone and format.
Invaded by Yellow Flowers
"What: Be on alert- Dandelions have been spotted
in local neighborhoods." Followed by the same when-where-why, and this solution: "To completely control dandelions, the
taproot has to be killed by using a high-quality broadleaf weed
killer." (Note, no mention of digging up the stuff.) Then there's the same directive to feed and use the same list of herbicides.
But Marty Ross's response to all this information wasn't to pass it along to her readers, as Scotts intended. An eco-savvy journalist, she defended clover in her reply to Scotts and for good measure, forwarded it to GardenRant. (Did she similarly defend dandelions? I forgot to ask. Marty?)
Hello Keri: I'm not an expert but it is my understanding that clover was
once very prominent in lawns, and that it no longer is bc the herbicides used
against most weeds also wipe out clover.
Clover is actually very good for lawns and for the environment. It attracts
bees, doesn't need to be mowed as often as grass, and supplies nitrogen. I like
to have some clover in my lawn; it keeps the rabbits out of my garden. We
actually seeded clover this year.
Here is a link to an article on About.com: http://landscaping.about.com/cs/lawns/a/clover_lawns_4.htm,
and a link to Lawn Reform: http://www.lawnreform.org/
Scotts ought to show more awareness of the environment, and encourage
gardeners who wish to have multi-species lawns to include clover. Sure it's not
a good all-over turf, but clover is pretty, durable, and a sign of a healthy,
diverse habitat. One reason some people have clover in their lawns is bc they
can't grow grass there.
Sorry to start a fight, but CLOVER TAKING OVER LAWNS is a sensational
With regards, Marty
No response yet from Keri Butler or anyone at Scotts, so I promised Marty I'd forward this to their Sustainability Officer – remember her? Yes, we scoffed when Scotts established that position but Jan Valentic, the Sustainability Officer herself, saw our scoffing and responded very nicely, concluding with this invitation to dialogue with us:
just created this position and need advisors like you to help ensure
that our sustainability efforts are not greenwashing – but rather stand
up to the scrutiny of naturalists and people who have a passion for
plants. I grew up as the daughter of an opinionated president of her
local garden club, and my mother passed along her love of and
astonishment at nature right out our back door. I take very seriously
the honor and responsibility to help advance sustainability at Scotts.
I look forward to hearing your ideas and feedback. I will be
starting a blog soon. Meanwhile, feel free to contact me at my email
So Jan, we'd love to hear from you about the continued labeling of clover and dandelions as bad plants, thereby creating demand for products and practices that are unnecessary and environmentally harmful.
These messages are also examples of Scotts's constant push for the overfertilizing of lawns, even in spring when it's most likely to pollute our waters. About which pollution there seems to be plenty of evidence because the authorities all tell us not to follow your advice.
Dandelion photo by Mike Deal.