Thursday, 19 April 2018

A chemical attack?

[A very topical subject, this...!]

One of the "Foremost" potato plants I am growing seems to have been the victim of a chemical poisoning. Not Novichok this time, but probably Clopyralid weedkiller.

As most readers will know, some of the potatoes I am growing at home in large plastic tubs are ones that I rescued from my new plot at Courtmoor Avenue last Autumn. I think it's possible that this one had been contaminated with weedkiller before I brought it home, because all the others (and the seed tubers I bought at the Potato Day I attended in January) seem to be OK. If the weedkiller were the soil / compost I'm using, I believe they would all have been affected. Look at these two side-by-side. One of the plants seems fine, but the other displays the "fern-like" and "spoon-shaped" foliage so characteristic of this type of chemical damage.

This year all my container-grown potatoes are in a mix of home-made compost and soil taken from a decommissioned raised bed.  Apart from the one seen above, they all look OK so far.

Long-time readers of my blog will possibly remember that a few years ago (2014) my garden suffered severely from weedkiller contamination in commercial compost, but I don't think any of that is still with me. I made strenuous efforts to avoid any of the affected material getting into my compost bins, and in any case I empty them completely at least once a year.

If you grow vegetables but also have a lawn, be VERY careful if you use any proprietary lawn-care products. In particular, never put grass clippings from a treated lawn into the Green Waste, because it will end up in the Municipal Compost and go on to devastate the crops of some other unsuspecting gardener!

I'm hoping the contamination in my garden is limited and a one-off, but I'll be keeping a very careful watch on my plants!


  1. You have had very bad luck with weed killer contamination. Last year I bought a well known brand of potting mix and the seedlings that were started in it did very poorly, especially tomatoes. An Earthbox filled with the mix simply would not grow lettuce. I suspect there were traces of weedkiller in the mix. This year I am using ProMix and have had no problems.

  2. The problem is that there is little that you can safely do to dispose of lawn clippings affected by this type of weed killer.

  3. Sorry about the week killer problems. We have fields at the side of the cottage and they use all sorts sprayed on them, one of the reasons we don't grow too many veg. Funnily enough, as I write this they are in the field that runs the length of our garden, spraying now, using a huge rig that you see around East Anglia.

  4. So sad to hear you're going through this once again, hope this won't get in the way of you continuing your garden!

  5. I read in your link that the substance breaks down after around 9 months. I wonder if there's any merit in buying compost in Late Summer/Autumn and storing it until spring?

    1. 9 months? That's a lie! It's what the weedkiller manufacturers would LIKE you to believe. I'd say more like 3 years.

    2. fair enough. I don't feel there's enough awareness out there that this is a "thing".
      I don't use any broad spectrum chemicals at all but if I did, I probably wouldn't bat an eyelid at putting my grass clippings in the green waste bin.
      A lot of green waste "binners" aren't growers, they just have lawns/bushes.
      Bit of a problem really! I think we need a change in mentality, I personally can't see how applying the stuff is any harder than's all marketing!


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