CO-Horts Blog

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hort Peeves: The "More is Better" Attitude

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

Hopefully you did a double-take of the Japanese maple photo above. Perhaps a thought came into your mind that starts with, "What the _____?!" (You fill in the blank.) This photo was taken by my brother, Jeffrey, in Oregon. His text said, "What do you think? A few more scoops should do it?"

In case you're wondering what's wrong, that poor Japanese maple is covered (smothered, really) in Osmocote, a slow-release fertilizer. And this brings me to my hort peeve: the mentality that, "A little is good, so a lot more is better."

Here's the thing..."a lot more" can actually do damage to your plants. Whether it's fertilizer, pesticides or even water. Too much fertilizer can cause burning, salt build-up and excessive succulent growth that is more prone to insects, disease and damage. Overuse of pesticides is wasteful and not environmentally responsible.
Weed death by drowning.
Yes, we've all done it. Even I've done it. But it's not the way to approach sustainable (and legal) gardening.

The bottom line: Read the label and apply the product according to the directions. In terms of pesticides, the label is the law. If the label suggests to apply the product so that the foliage is "lightly dripping", do not pour the product on the plant. If the product suggests 2 teaspoons of product per inch trunk diameter, do not use 2 cups of product.


I realize that we're an instant society and we want to see immediate results. If we use Roundup, we want that plant dead within hours. As a point of clarity, glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) usually takes a week or more to work, depending on conditions. But ingredients have been added (like diquat) so that you see foliage burn in a couple hours.

This also brings up another peeve: apply the product in the time frame suggested. If the label says wait 14 days before reapplying, then wait 14 days. Don't reapply at 7 days and think you'll "get a jump" on the problem. Give the product time to work.

Going back to the Japanese maple, Jeff has assured me he will keep an eye on it. I suspect the poor tree will show signs of leaf burn and dieback over the coming months/years. Poor tree.