Dear EarthTalk: Within my lawn I have over 100 citrus, mango and avocado trees. When I use Scott’s Bonus S Weed and Feed, am I feeding my new fruit any poison? Will the weed killer be taken up by the fruit?
—Richard Weissman, Miami, FL
In short, yes and yes: You will jeopardize the health of your fruit trees and your yard in general if you use such products. Scott’s Bonus S Weed and Feed, as well as many other “weed-and-feed” fertilizers (Vigero, Sam”s, etc.), contain the harsh chemical herbicide atrazine, which excels at terminating fast-growing weeds like dandelions and crabgrass but can also kill other desirable plants and trees and damage your entire yard as toxin-carrying root systems stretch underground in every corner and beyond.
Howard Garrett, a landscape architect who founded the DirtDoctor.com website and is an evangelist for natural organic gardening and landscaping, points out that anyone who reads the label on such products will learn that even manufacturers don’t take their health and environmental effects lightly. Some of the warnings right there in black and white on the Scott’s Bonus S Weed and Feed packaging include precautions against using it “under trees, shrubs, bedding plants or garden plants” or in the general vicinity of any such plants” branch spreads or root zones.
Scott’s also recommends not applying it by hand or with hand-held rotary devices or applying “in a way that will contact any person either directly or through drift.” And just in case you were thinking it was okay for the environment, Scott’s adds that “runoff and drift from treated areas may be hazardous to aquatic organisms in neighboring areas” and that the product is “toxic to aquatic invertebrates.”