Most Horrible Gardening Mistake Ever

treehugger101June 3, 2013

I am devastated. My blueberry bushes had spider mites bad. I sprayed with the only bug killer I had for mites which was Ortho Insect and Disease Control. I did read the label but did not see the very tiny print "for non-edibles only." This morning I called the company. They said all annual edible plants sprayed must be destroyed and my blueberries cannot be eaten for a year! I must have thousands of blueberries I waited two years for. Now I need to cut them all off and throw them away. If anyone reads this, I would appreciate some of your mistakes if you have any.
I am so depressed.

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alan haigh

If you were a NYer you would probably consider suing the company for putting that extremely crucial information in very fine print. Awful lot of baby boomers that need a magnifying glass to decipher the tiny stuff.

It is so crucially important to carefully read pesticide labels but your mistake is only par on the long road to any mastery of growing fruit plants. Your extreme concern for your blueberries actually probably worked against you as you were likely more focused on the mites than the label.

So sorry for you loss.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 9:37AM
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Surely they are acting on fear of being sued. How much of it could have been absorbed, if you sprayed during the week end? I would hose down the plant now, very thoroughly.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 10:19AM
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The chemical is systemic and not affected by rain or water and I did this yesterday AM. Would you eat the berries anyway if it were you?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 10:47AM
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You could freeze the blueberries for a year and then eat them, better than letting them just go to waste...

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 10:52AM
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Washing it down buys you time to research the issue, and minimizes the amount in circulation. I understand it is systemic but what is the half life and where does it go primarily? If the half life is one month, I would eat them all when they ripen. If it ends primarily in the leaves, and I washed it down, I would also think about it.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 11:11AM
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The contact specialist said that because the chemical works by photosynthesis, all areas exposed absorb the chemical including berries. The half life is 3 weeks but he said don't go by half life. Nothing can be eaten that grows within 2 feet of the spray area for one year. So I have lost my crop for the year. What produce should I have used for spider mites for future reference?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 12:11PM
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I am so sorry for your loss.

If it were me, I would not eat the berries. It's true you waste a year but the reason we grow our own fruit so we could eat safer fruit.

Knowing that your berries are not safe to eat, why risk it?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 12:25PM
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In your situation I would remove the fruit as green berries, and put it all into the compost, for a 2 year period. Then I would do what is needed to help the shrubs recover, but I would not prune the shrubs heavily at this time. You lost a year's crop of blueberries, but I don't see any reason for cutting the shrubs down, I think the systemic insecticide will be metabolized and/or degraded by next spring. Sometimes it becomes necessary to re-pack and re-label chemicals. If you continue to use Ortho Insect & Disease Control, I think you should make your own label, with an improved description and an improved warning. Anyone who is not a strictly organic gardener could make this sort of error. Thanks for the heads-up.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 1:17PM
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Treehugger - look up the active ingredients and find a neutral opinion.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 1:42PM
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That is a good idea ltilton but I cannot find one. The active ingredients are: acephate 4%, triforine 3.25 and fenbutatin-oxide .75%. I Googled each item and also the product. The product is listed as a Code 1 in the Toxicity Category of Danger. Can you recommend a search criteria to try for more info relating to this issue?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 1:57PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

While this is very bad for you this year it is my experience that following a crop-free year the next will be a bumper crop. If you are able to remove the berries while they are green the plants will likely put their energy into growth for next year.

I experienced this with a peach-less year two years ago and then last year was a bumper crop. This year I don't have peaches so I am hoping next will be a bumper crop also.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 2:45PM
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I'm with Milehigh and Bamboo. Cut your losses, don't eat the berries, remove the berries and look towards next season. It is so hard, but we all have gone through this in one fashion or another. You just won't have YOUR blueberries this summer. That is all. You will have a bumper-crop next year for sure! I also have to wait another entire year for peaches. I had a ton last summer and only have 2 this year, and it is before June drop! Next year is another year in the berry patch and orchard. Next year will bring a new surprise. Mrs.G

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 3:17PM
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Freezing the berries will not work--all that would do is freeze the poison inside them and keep it "fresh." Would you freeze food that had cockroaches in it, as if freezing it would make the cockroaches go away in a year?

And frankly I don't know if I would ever again trust the fruit from a plant which has systemic poison in it. I would much rather buy a new one and be safe. Or maybe, if it were rare, take a small stem and propigate from that, which would at least dilute it greatly.

For spidermites it would be much better to buy beneficials or use diatamaceous earth, than to try and poison your way out. Here is one site that sells them. A bonus is they are likely to breed a new generation for next year, so you might only have to buy them once, like preying mantids.

Carla in Sac

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 3:32PM
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Thanks, Mrs. G.
Carla, - I can't bring myself to throw out the bushes. I will throw out the berries though. I have never had luck with beneficial insects. I buy them and they fly elsewhere, over and over.

I bought three new bushes today and they have spider mites (ace hardware) so I will spray with safer insecticidal soap.

Sorry about the peaches. When my 15 fruit trees are old enough, I guess I will go through that, too. Thanks for sharing everyone.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 5:46PM
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Looks like the rep was covering the company's ass. Either the half life is three weeks or it is not. If it is 21 days, the concentration will go down by a factor of 8 in 63 days, which would be Aug. 5. Needless to say, it will go down by a factor of 1 million by late July 2014, probably more with winter leaf loss. I say that next year is absolutely safe.

I am guessing that once the plant is hosed, the half life will simply depend on metabolic rate, averaging 21 days or so, could be longer or shorter depending on how vigorously the plant is growing. And my guess is that the half life for any systemic in any plant is shortest in the months of May, June and July. If it were, say, 8 days I would eat them, and definitely I would eat them if mites or other insects affected by it were to reappear. I would further research the issue before giving up. Sure there are pesticides with half lives of one year, and you want them as far as possible from you, but they are really all over the map.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 9:26PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Oh golly, treehugger. Okay, first off, hort oil will smother the spider mites. First, hose the heck off the bushes to knock off the mites, then treat with hort oil (just be sure temps stay below 85 degrees). They're pretty easy to get rid of, if you're persistent with hosing your plants off. And, let your own predators take care of the rest of them down the road. For your blueberries, I would flood them with water to try to reduce any residual poison on the plant or in the soil. Wait a year, and then the concentration of the poison should be low enough not to be a concern.

And, a law suit in small claims court is not out of the question here, my gosh. You've invested a fair amount of money into your plants. The cost of your plants, fertilizers, composting, soil amendments, and your time. That's not a small chunk of change if you have a fair number of plants. No one is saying to "sue for every little thing", but you've got a fair amount of investment going on here. Certainly, if you're going to make the decision to pull out your plants and re-plant, it would not be out of line to ask Ortho to compensate you for your lost investment. Bamboo Rabbit, of all forum members can appreciate that, as he has a lot of blueberry bushes going.

Let us know what you end up doing, and you can always post here on the forum if you have a question about how to manage something with your plants. So many great and knowledgeable forum members here to help you out! May save you a future headache :-)

Patty S.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 9:55PM
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alan haigh

For the record, I wasn't suggesting a lawsuit, only using the litigious reputation of New Yorkers to make a point. I would avoid that companies products in the future, however, as they did a very poor job of protecting you. Should have been BOLD print.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 1:01AM
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Hey, you know what? The cost of buying some berries or even the cost of new plants is a lot less than the cost of cancer treatments or a funeral.
It says on the label "for use on non-edible plants only". That is pretty simple. Next time don't be so quick to grab a bottle of poison. You are getting some very bad advice here. Cut your loses and move on.
There are new miticides available that I believe are approved for food crops. Do a little research.
Or, take the chance and assume the company doesn't know what they are talking about (they probably didn't do any testing anyway, right?) and just take all this advice from people you never meet and fill your face.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 2:51AM
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Clorp, I have done a lot of research, even asking in another posting on this forum for suggestions but no safe products were recommended. I did try spraying with the hose but I guess not enough. I could not find any products and I had this one on hand. Anyway, my mistake.
Harvestman, the company that makes this product is the same one that makes round up. I think for that reason alone, I will not eat the berries.
Patty, Thank you. Hort oil it is.

I appreciate everyone's support and ideas. Tomorrow, I will cut the berries off and try to forget about it.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 3:35AM
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caryltoo Z7/SE PA

So sorry about your blueberries, tree, but please don't eat them. It's not worth the risk. I use Neem oil for all kinds of things on my herbs, but have never sprayed my blueberries. That said, I waited five years for berries because I didn't know I needed two different varieties for pollination. Finally, after three years with no berries, I did some research and picked up a couple of plants at the local box store. Voila, berries last year and the bushes are loaded this year, too (though one of the two new ones just up and disappeared -- I suspect one of the dogs, who sometimes pulls small plants up and drags them around as a chew toy).

Every gardener makes mistakes. It's almost inevitable. But we learn and go on. A few years ago the back of my perennial garden was overgrown so I asked my husband to use roundup on the weeds, then I tilled the area and planted about a dozen lupines and hollyhocks I had grown from seed. They were healthy and thriving when they went in, but one by one they died. It turned out he used a roundup that sterilized the soil and nothing would grow there for a year. So I lost an entire year, or two when you consider that most perennials don't bloom till the second year.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 6:35AM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

Peaches 14 days until harvest I use liquid at most garden centers.

Here is a link that might be useful: mites

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 6:37AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

This site has a lot of useful info, but then again it has a lot of info that approaches myth. Round Up is an excellent product. It will not sterilize soil for a year. It only works on foliage for one. It doesn't last long. It's very safe!
I also have the insecticide used here, and it is clearly marked not for edibles. Non-edible is all over the label, and the fact they list none is a clear indicator it is not for edibles! I worked for years in a lab, from that experience I see no difference from organic and non organic. As far as I'm concerned it's all organic. At least that is how we defined it in organic labs. "Organic" is used as a marketing tool. Nothing more, I'm afraid.
I recently used Bugs Be Gone by Ortho. It can be used on edibles, and is safe after 3 days. It also works very well killing everything in sight. Watch out for the bees. Hundreds of insecticides are out there. BBG is made from organic molecules, but I'm sure not considered organic. Which makes no sense to me at all? Plastic is probably more dangerous. You won't catch me putting plastic to my lips.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 8:31AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


While you are 100% correct that roundup (glyphosphate) only works on the leaves and not in the soil roundup makes a product called "Roundup extended control". It has added chemicals to prevent weeds from growing for months..I think it is 3 or 4 months. So while it may not kill plants for a year it could certainly kill the plants as Caryltoo mentioned. It is designed for cracks in sidewalks and such.

This post was edited by bamboo_rabbit on Tue, Jun 4, 13 at 8:45

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 8:43AM
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caryltoo Z7/SE PA

It was the extended control and it prevented anything from growing there from June through September, so for my gardening purposes it was a lost year.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 9:53AM
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Drew, I have an old container and the print is miniscule and only on one section. In any case, I am throwing it out (properly disposed.). Lesson learned.
caryltoo, I am sorry about your lupines (I love them, too).

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 11:30AM
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jbclem(z9b Topanga, Ca)

Here are a couple thoughts about this subject:

Spider mites: are you sure that's what you have, have you looked at them with a magnifying device. Here's the device I use, it costs between $2-5 and takes a few weeks to arrive. It really works well and has two bright led lights.

it's very useful for spider mites since they are so small. With it you can see how many full grown ones there are per leaf, how many young ones, and especially how many eggs are waiting to be hatched. I use Safer's Soap solution sprayed on the underside of the leaf (that's where they live) and it works but it doesn't kill the eggs so you have to keep coming back(every 4-7 days in warm weather) until they're all hatched and killed.
Half-life: the half-life of the chemical ingredient(s) depends on where it is when measured. Some chemicals breakdown quickly in the presence of light and water, but that measurement would say nothing about their half-life 12 inches underground in dried out soil. Or how long they last when they get down to the ground water level where they can be very stable for a long time. I looked up the half-life of imidaclopid, which is the plant systemic poison thought to be the culprit in the problem of massive bee colony collapse/ disappearance). It's half-life range was from 1-4 hours(in water with light), 1 year (in water absent light), to 1-3 years(in soil, aerobic conditions). I couldn't find anything anywhere about half life when in the plant leaves, flowers, fruit, nectar, etc...and I'd guess that information would be kept hidden as much as possible since it would scare people the most. In the case of imidacloprid, it took 30-60 days to spread to all the extremes of a tree.

Lastly, I have to agree with clorpt, these are serious poisons and you can't be casual about using them. We live in a world where cancer and neurological diseases are epidemic, and the producers of these chemicals will say anything to increase their sales. And do their best to hide all negative information about them. You couldn't pay me to eat those blueberries of yours, even a year later if frozen (what a silly idea!)

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 7:11PM
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jagchaser(5A NE, -15-115f may frost)

acephate is an insecticide that is labeled for use on vegetables.
triforine is a fungicide also labeled for use on vegetables.
fenbutatin is an insecticide labeled for use primarily on fruit and nut trees.
These are the only 3 active ingredients in your Ortho Insect and disease control.

The reason your product is not labeled for edibles is that the amount of chemical applied has to be precisely delivered to make sure that not too much gets on the crop. Only licensed applicators can apply a "restricted use" pesticide for that reason.

Since their product is not labeled for edibles then they have to tell you to destroy it after the mistaken application. The label has to be followed exactly or its use is against federal law.

I have years of ag chemical application experience and I would not eat those blueberries, because there is no way to know the exact amount you applied. I would however not destroy the plants. The fruit will be fine next year.

I agree 100% with Drew about glyphosate. A wonderful, stable, and safe product. Dont confuse that with the premixed products that may contain 2-4-d or dicamba or any number of other chemicals.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 11:39PM
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Thanks, Jagchaser. This clarifies things. - Terri

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 9:31AM
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meredith_e Z7b, Piedmont of NC, 1000' elevation

Garlic chives (not regular chives) repel spider mites in roses. I'm not sure that's the same species, but it is worth a shot if someone feels like trying it, imho. Plant them around the plant you are protecting.

Otherwise, the hose works here -- a strong spray. We're too humid to have them be much of a problem if the beneficial population is doing well, which is related to the insecticide used, too.

Here's an enormous gardening mistake of a sort! Scientists released (or just encouraged the spread of?) a mite that killed only the wild multiflora rose that is so hard to get rid of and was a problem for farmers. Except it doesn't only kill that kind of rose!

Folks have lost entire, historic rose gardens because of that mistake :( The mite kills via a virus, and there's no cure yet. The cure is to dig up every bit of root and burn, because it spreads.

Garlic chives don't work on that kind of mite ;)

I'm so sorry about your blueberries. I'm glad you don't have to replace the plants!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 9:43PM
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I found that a garlic chive border also cut down on deer grazing. I had a bed of jerusalem artichokes that I planted just for deer grazing and they enjoyed it year after year. I originally had a few left over garlic chives at the bottom of this long thin bed. Over the years those chives spread to make a border around the entire bed and as they spread the grazing diminished each year. I am going to paint round up on the chives as those puppies are like digging out concrete. I like the deer being drawn there (in the upper part of my yard) and to the hosta bar (in the lower part of my yard) as they mostly leave the other plants alone. Of course I have concrete wire cages around fruit trees and anything else I really want to keep safe.

Pam in cinti

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 11:05AM
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