Susan Harris
All about gardening the eco-friendly way, by Susan Harris and 22 other garden writers and experts.

Hot Water Topics for Blog Action Day

October 15, 2010 · 9 comments

Over 5,000 bloggers around the world – including one White House blogger – are observing Blog Action Day today by focusing attention on a subject in need of lots more attention – water.   It’s hard for Save the Ocean appeals to compete with Save the Baby Anything messages, though the closer to home the body of water is, the more attention it gets.  So fortunately, Save the  “Chesapeake Bay” IS a popular message, and the current leadership in Annapolis and the White House have made great progress in reducing pollution.  (And Marylanders who care about the Bay, don’t forget to VOTE Nov. 2!)

Water in the Landscape
But let’s get on-topic, shall we?  Probably THE most important environmental responsibility we have as landowners and gardeners have to do with water – conserving it as a resource, and making sure the rainwater landing on our property percolates down and is cleaned before it ends up in our waters.   So there’s lots to cover, including topics like how to water efficiently and principles of xeriscaping, which are covered here so I won’t repeat them.  I’ll just recommend two interesting links about water in our gardens:

  • I like the “Wise Lawn Care Prevents Water Pollution” hand-out distributed by the city of Alexandria, VA.   Most people believe that avoiding pesticides is all they need to do to protect waterways, so information like this that emphasizes wise fertilization practices is essential.  This brochure tells us to “Fertilize in the fall if at all!”
  • A measure is being considered in New Jersey that would severely restrict the polluting nutrients nitrogen and phosphates in lawn fertilizers, and I recommend Tom Christopher’s account on Huffington Post.   He notes that Scotts MiracleGro and TruGreen are fighting the measure, as are some who fear their properties values will decline if their lawns are less green.  But Tom suggests that the solution to make everyone happy (except the aforementioned behemoths of the lawn industry) is to switch to the less resource-intensive fine fescue mixes that are being tested by Rutgers (see Now-Mow Lawn and Eco-Lawn.)  Tom’s also a member of the Lawn Reform Coalition.

More about Scotts
But enough about water; I thought I’d look more closely at the company fighting these clean-water measures.  You know, the company that spends $100 million a year on advertising, much of it telling us to “green-up” our lawns in the spring, the worst possible time for our waterways.  Thanks to Paul Tukey at SafeLawns, I found some interesting corporate research:

The Scotts Company is the world’s leading supplier and marketer of consumer products for do-it-yourself lawn and garden care. It also supplies a range of products for professional horticulture. Scotts owns the leading brands in every major category in virtually all of the countries where it has a significant presence.

Scotts enjoys a de facto monopoly on lawn care and garden products in the US. In the year ending September 2002, the company enjoyed a market share of 52%, controlling 62% of the consumer market for lawn fertilizers, 59% of the market for growing media/plant food, 43% of the market for grass seed and 41% of the market for controls (i.e. herbicides and pesticides). In addition, Scotts LawnService has now become the 2nd largest competitor in the American lawn service industry.

In 2002 the company’s market share, for lawn care and garden products, in Europe was approximately 25 percent. The company also has a presence in Australia, the Far East, Latin America and South America.

Scotts relies heavily on advertising to create demand for its products. According to the company’s annual report, Scotts’ brands are supported by an annual investment of approximately $100 million in advertising. In the US nearly 4 out of 5 advertising messages in the lawn and garden industry come from Scotts. For 2003, Scotts plans to increase its media spending by another 20%.

There’s more about Scotts here on Corporate Watch – their record on work conditions and environmental issues.   I think this bigger picture helps us better understand the Scotts “sustainability” efforts, including their alarmingly successful outreach to (and feeding of) garden writers.


1 maria bargellini October 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Thanks for the info. I wasn’t aware of today’s significance. I have tons of posts on my landscaping site about conserving water. I will gladly re post them for today.


2 commonweeder October 15, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Needless to say I have only sampled a tiny percentage of the Blog Action Day postings on water, but I think I may have hit on a fairly important, but ignored way that water is not only wasted but turned into a hazard with my post about Water and Livestock and Gene Logsdon.

3 betty harris October 18, 2010 at 7:00 am

Water will soon be more precious than oil if we don’t change our ways. We have purchased a house this year and after growing up on a farm and not being able to garden since 1983 the drive to garden was really pent up in me.
Our approach has been to gradually move from lawn to landscaping, preferably with plants that are tolerant of low water conditions. I have not fertilized at all this year and although the soil is mostly clay it will be improving fast based on my years of experience as an organic gardener. In 2011 we’ll decrease our lawn area even more (the lawn man only charges us $20 a week to mow our small patch) and expand the food growing area. I’m doing some major mulching and composting that will show good results within another year. The main issue here in CO is lack of variety in mulching materials that don’t come in a plastic bag. This coming year we’ll also move to a drip irrigation system that we’ll install ourselves. This will save more water. I believe that if everyone could become water conscious rather than basically ecologically unconscious that human survival would be more likely than not.

4 Shane VanOosterhout October 22, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Hi, Susan, I’m glad to see more and more garden writers focusing on the inevitable environmental impact of gardening practices. I found your blog through Networkedblogs.

Shane VanOosterhout

5 Shane VanOosterhout October 22, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Here is my blog:

Shane V.

6 betty harris October 22, 2010 at 3:41 pm

We are moving away from lawns all together. We’re planting drought tolerate plants on all exposed soil so that nothing can erode… we’re moving to drip irrigration next spring, now that we’ve done our homework..
I’m mulching all garden areas heavily for the winter to hold any moisture that may collect and encourage earthworms to till it for me. I wash vegs in kitchen over a plastic tub and that the water and water the flowers with it. Since my Kitchen is across the house from the boiler that heats water if I need hot running water I run the water into this same tub and use to water the plants inside or out. What I really want to know is, if I save the water from the shower which has soap in it, can i actually use this water on the garden without any detrimental effects?

7 Susan Harris October 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Betty, I wouldn’t know but I’d look up the ingredients of the soap you used and google ‘em. Also search using the term greywash or graywash.

8 Plants Pages November 7, 2010 at 1:26 am

Yes, water is becoming one of the most scarce things on earth. If we don’t try to conseve it now, things will be more worse in future.

9 Phil Nauta - Smiling Gardener November 12, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Yes, it’s really frustrating that Scott’s is getting into organic fertilizers, too, because many people will buy them thinking they’re doing the right thing, but that’s like buying organic food at Wal-Mart.

Water is already scarce in many parts of North America. I recently wrote about some better ways to harvest it than into a rainwater barrel: Rain Harvesting – Is Installing A Rainwater Barrel Even Worthwhile?, although rainwater barrels are fun, too.

Previous post:

Next post: