Bee the Change

February 26, 2011
To our customers:

Effective March 1, 2011, Magnolia Gift & Garden will no longer carry Bayer yard care products. Over the past decade, international research has accumulated extensive data to suggest that neonicotinoid pesticides are harmful to honeybees. Many Bayer formulations contain the systemic chemical Imidacloprid, which falls under this pesticide category. While it has primarily been observed to cause functional handicaps in pollinators, such as impaired navigational ability, reduced foraging activity and disorientation, other insecticides in this group have been directly associated with the death of juvenile bees, ultimately leading to deterioration of the colony. Honeybees have a vital role in agricultural production as well as the biodiversity of native ecosystems, and their continued population decline worldwide has inflicted serious economic loss and environmental damage.

Hemerocallis - Magnolia Gift and Garden

While this information has certainly been a factor in our decision to discontinue the Bayer product line, the primary impetus for this change is that there are simply better alternatives. A landscape must be viewed holistically, and like natural ecological systems, the health or decline of each individual component affects the sum of the parts. Since the nursery was founded in 2008, Magnolia has advocated a systematic approach to plant nutrition, pest and disease control with minimal environmental impact known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This philosophy emphasizes preventative measures, including sanitation and a maintenance schedule which maximizes the vigor and immune function of plants while minimizing risks of infection. Biological controls or concentrates of botanical extracts are applied remedially. As a last resort, precise dosages of selective synthetic products may be utilized to bring a severe infestation back under the threshold of natural management; we will still offer some selective herbicides which do not contain neonicotinoids.

Hellebores - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Preying Mantis - Magnolia Gift and Garden

We do not view this change as a reduction of services to our customers. Rather, we have progressively expanded our inventory of organic fertilizers, soils, and natural pest and disease control measures to continue to meet the needs of the Northstate community. The products we stock are carefully chosen and tested in-house before they appear on our shelves, and we back that with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. Agroecological research continues to demonstrate the efficacy of IPM. While a holistic approach may not provide the rapid gratification of a chemical application, it pays dividends over the long-term without the environmental costs of synthetics, such as pest resistance, salt buildup and toxic leaching into the surrounding landscape or groundwater. Our knowledgeable staff are always eager to help you work toward comprehensive landscape health through a combination of sound horticultural practices and proper application of naturally-derived products.

Here’s to a healthier planet,

Magnolia Gift & Garden

It Isn’t Dirt…

It is a seemingly harmless interposition of terms, but it carries a weighty implication. Never ask a gardener how their dirt is. Healthy soil is arguably worth its weight in gold. Perhaps the most crucial component of vigorous gardens and vibrant ecosystems, this oft under-appreciated substrate is responsible for anchoring, nourishing, hydrating and allowing atmospheric gasses to enter and leave the plant. It follows that establishing or supporting a healthy garden starts with sound soil management.

Here in the North Valley, the land is often high in Magnesium, a byproduct of decomposing mineral serpentine in the surrounding foothills. Though it is an essential micronutrient for plants, large quantities of this element can actually have a toxic effect. Where it is prevalent in the soil, the chemical receptors in the root tissue of plants will indiscriminately collect high concentrations of Magnesium instead of the reactively similar Calcium ions, which are a macronutrient in much greater demand. In proportion to plant needs, Calcium levels in native soils are much lower than those of Magnesium. While traditional horticultural wisdom would recommend applications of Agricultural Lime—Calcium Carbonate—in such instances, this will raise the pH, or make the soil more alkaline. All nutrients are available to the plant within a finite pH range, and as our flatland soils tend toward alkalinity anyway, this approach can create new problems.

Alternately, we suggest intensive applications of Gypsum, or Calcium Sulfate. By elevating Calcium levels in the soil, plants have ready access to the nutrient and are less likely to accumulate Magnesium instead, leading directly to increased vegetative health. Fruit quality issues, such as end rot in tomatoes, are often symptomatic of Calcium deficiencies and will be markedly reduced or eliminated come harvest time. Additionally, Sulfate has a mild acidifying effect, helping to maintain a lower pH—one more conducive to absorption of other nutrients.

Buffering of pH allows the soil itself to feel the real benefits of Calcium addition—deflocculation—without the detrimental effects on plants that Lime would produce. Deflocculation simply means that the Calcium ions break up the very dense, clumping soil structure indicative of clay content, allowing increased aeration, drainage, and leaching salts out of the soil. Or, as our Sof’n-Soil© bags read, Gypsum “works like millions of tiny hoes.” So if your garden gnomes just can’t seem to get it together, here’s a low-cost solution that is good for the gardener and the earth. Come in soon, and get a jump start on building rich, loose soil for a fantastic year in the yard!