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Scotts EcoSense Weed B Gon

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I hate weeds, and I enjoy a significant degree of satisfaction in ending their mean little lives. We have fifty acres of back yard, of which about four are reasonably civilized. Any weed that can’t confine itself to the remaining forty-six deserves whatever it gets.

For a long time, the most effective broadsword to be unsheathed in the ongoing struggle against the barbarian hoards in our lawn was 2,4-D, a venerable weed killer that conveniently nuked anything green except grass. I suspect that 2,4-D got a bad rap largely because it works well and smells funny. Having an unusually long history as agro-chemicals go – it dates back to the second world war – 2,4-D has been tested within an inch of its life by very nearly every government with at least one scientist on its public payroll. It has only been found to be demonstrably toxic to higher-order lifeforms which insist on swimming in it in its concentrated form.

This said, the green left really hates the stuff, and in some jurisdictions – sadly, including ours – nanny-state governments have outlawed it. In point of fact, ours outlawed it for consumer use – it’s still legal for application upon the hallowed turf of golf courses and for industrial-strength agriculture.

EcoSense Weed B Gon by Scotts – them wot gave us MiracleGro and sundry other garden novelties – is a putative replacement for traditional weed killers. Like 2,4-D, it’s a selective herbicide. It will kill weeds without harming your lawn. At least, it will most of the time.

2,4-D is a synthetic auxin, a plant hormone. It works by tricking weeds into growing much more rapidly than their metabolisms can support, which ultimately causes them to clutch their hearts, search around in their pockets for a bottle of nitroglycerine pills, remember fleetingly that they forgot to renew their prescription last month and ultimately hit the ground stone dead. Weed B Gon is a highly concentrated solution of chelated iron, which grass can metabolize much more readily than broadleaf plants. It proves toxic to the latter.

The first catch inherent in Weed B Gon is that its effectiveness is somewhat concentration-specific. In my experience of it, you’ll have to slather quite a bit of it on your weeds, usually over several applications, to do them in. In that it’s difficult to know precisely when you’ve reached a suitable level of toxicity for a specific lawn invader, you’ll likely require quite a bit of the stuff.

Not all weeds react to Weed B Gon identically. Some, like dandelions, go gently into that good night with relatively little persuasion. Others, such as clover, largely seem to ignore it. The first batch of weeds I applied Weed B Gon to were pretty much exclusively clover. My initial impression of the product was that its efficacy was predicated upon the weeds it was applied to noticing its expensive green bottle and laughing themselves to death.

As a rule, weeds that are just about impossible to dig out by hand are pretty much invulnerable to Weed B Gon.

It must also be said of Weed B Gon that it’s only partially selective as selective herbicides go. It won’t kill healthy grass, but it did seem disposed to terminating damaged parts of our lawn with extreme prejudice. It will turn most grass black for a few days, although it ultimately recovers.

Perhaps more salient than its chemical limitations, anyone with a lawn larger than a size-nine Reebok will notice almost immediately that Weed B Gon is really expensive. In our overtaxed bit of the universe, a 709 milliliter (24-ounce) squirt bottle costs ten dollars – plus two levels of sales tax. Our lawn required several of them to dispatch all of those broadleaf weeds that Weed B Gon proved disposed to kill. By comparison, a concentrated bottle of 2,4-D, which could produce enough weed killer to keep the place looking tidy for most of a decade, cost about five dollars before the current provincial government took office.

If you really insist on being as environmentally conscious as the current state of industrial chemistry will allow, or if you find yourself to be laboring under an administration of eco-tyrants, Weed B Gon may well prove preferable to traditional weed killers, or better than nothing. Its significant cost, less than universal effectiveness and the requirement to apply it multiple times may give some lawn administrators pause.

These caveats not withstanding, I find myself favorably disposed toward the folks at Scotts for brewing up Weed B Gon. While it’s arguably somewhat removed from a perfect solution, it’s decidedly preferable to the one our government offered when it passed its ban on weed killer, to wit, “live with them.”

Users of herbicides who lean toward Weed B Gon for its more healthful disposition, in comparison to 2,4-D, should read the literature surrounding both these products carefully. There have been innumerable studies of the effects of 2,4-D over several decades, which are inconclusive at best. Most of the ones which hint at this substance being potentially carcinogenic involve way more exposure than any weekend warrior could conceivably encounter while slaying a few weeds. There’s also little concrete evidence to suggest that it’s harmful to other fauna – it is, after all, a plant hormone.

Keep in mind that with about half a century of attention focused upon it, you can locate moderately compelling studies about 2,4-D that will support just about any conclusion you like.

By comparison, Weed B Gon appears to be a fairly concentrated solution of iron – which is potentially harmful in sufficient quantities. In that Weed B Gon is a fairly new product, there’s little literature to address its potential side effects. Read the label, wear gloves and wash up carefully once all your weeds have been suitably doomed.

I should also note that the iron-based EcoSense Weed B Gon doesn’t appear to be universally available. The similarly named Scotts Weed B Gon Max, sold in some parts of the United States, contains 2,4-D.

Afterword: Should you find yourself in Ontario while you read this, we’d like to take this opportunity to urge you to vote in the upcoming provincial election. We’d also like to urge you to vote for your local Conservative candidate – we’re about as apolitical as a bust of Karl Marx with a clown nose and a lightbulb screwed into each of its ears, and we’re proud of it. Those would be real incandescent lightbulbs, not environmentally-friendly compact florescent bulbs.

If you’re located elsewhere, perhaps in a jurisdiction wherein the right of the people to keep and bear weed killer has not as yet been infringed, we also urge you to vote, and to do so having paid sufficient attention to determine which of the available candidates is likely to lurch to the left, and thence off the deep end.