My boyfriend and I spent this weekend planting our vegetables and herbs in the limited space we have around the front entrance and the balcony of our condo.   (We live in the Seattle area.) We were behind, but finally this weekend we filled our pots with organic soil and planted our first round of vegetables and herbs: tomatoes, chard, yellow squash, cucumbers, yellow beans, green beans, lettuce, thyme, basil, and oregano.  Everything is in pots except for the squash and cucumbers, for which there is a tiny bit of land adjacent to the walkway that we were able to use.  Turns out, we should have waited one more weekend.

When I checked the mail today I saw a bright yellow notice on the bulletin board next to the mailboxes: “Washington Tree Service will be spraying on 5/25.”  You have got to be kidding me.  I am furious.  Neither Dave nor I checked mail on Monday and the notice wasn’t there on Saturday.  This means the homeowner association gave us (our mailboxes, really) less than 24 hours notice.  I knew spraying would be an issue, but I figured they would give at least a week’s notice.  That would give me time to bring all the pots inside, and cover whatever I couldn’t move with plastic.  Apparently I was dreaming.

To come home to find that while I was out, some “service” came and poisoned my soil and my vegetables feels intrusive.  It feels like theft.  The point of growing our own vegetables is so we have locally grown, fresh, great tasting vegetables NOT laced with pesticides.  My homeowners association just took that away from us.

What do I do?  The thoughts going through my mind right now are the following: 1) contact the homeowners association and inform them that 24 hour notice at the mailbox bulletin board is not enough, 2) question the association on why we are hiring companies to spray our land with poison, 3) call Washington Tree Service and find out a) what chemical(s) they sprayed and b) what their method was, and 4) begin a petition with my neighbors to ban the homeowners association from using herbicides, pesticides, fungicides on the property.

Any thoughts on this?  Am I on the right path?  Are there other things I can do or I’m not thinking of?  Any help or thoughts are appreciated.

Sleepless in Seattle,


Update, 5/26: Has anyone ever heard of Ecotec TM (insecticide) or Sporatec TM (fungicide) from Brandt?  According to my homeowners association, Washington Tree Service provided the “natural choice” service; meaning they used Ecotec and Sporatec.  According the Washington Tree Service, these are made with “all-organic fish- and seaweed-based compounds, plus essential oils” and are certified organic by the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Hmm.  Perhaps this is safe for humans; this makes me feel a little better.  My next question though, is it safe for bees?  The Brandt website says the essential oils “block octopamine neuroreceptors in insects and mites, and also provide a temporary covering to the pest’s outer membrane leading to a smothering effect.”  Does it smother the honey bees and native pollinators too?

Update, 7/02: I’ve received a lot of search terms for these pesticides.  Here are the labels for Brandt Ecotec TM (insecticide) and Brandt Sporatec TM (fungicide) if you are looking for more information. (Thank you Kevin!) Feel free to comment, I’m interested in hearing about your questions and concerns!

Problems on the Urban Gardening Front . . . .

8 thoughts on “Problems on the Urban Gardening Front . . . .

  • May 26, 2010 at 6:19 am

    I would find out what product the service is going to be spraying, what pest they are targeting and what method of application. Also ask if the product has a label for vegetables. If you are concerned about pesticides, and it sounds like you are. You sould cover your garden with a plastic sheet during the application.
    You may also want to ask the service what the re-entry and withholding period may be for vegetables.
    Good Luck

    Kevin H

  • May 26, 2010 at 6:56 am

    Thank you Kevin! Those are good questions; I hope to get some answers today.

  • May 26, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Ecotec is pepermint oil and Rosemary oil. Non toxic to mammals but it can be an irritant. It is hazardous to bees. It needs to be applied when the bees are not foraging. It is not a registered pesticide with the EPA. So, it is not regulated by the EPA. Here is the label,

    Sporatec is Rosemary, Clove and Thyme oils. Again it is not a registered pesticide with the EPA, so it also is not regulated under the FIFRA act. (side bar, the fact that your homeowners assoc. is using such products concerns me as they are not under regulation, and yet are considered pesticides. These pesticides may also not have adequate reseach behind them as to not only their efficacy, but also their safety). Here is Sporatec’s label,
    Your homeowners assoc and the application company should supply you, upon your request, with not only a label, but also an MSDS and a list of precautions, such as reentry restrictions, and preharvest restrictions.

    Hope this helps

    Kevin H

  • May 27, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Thanks again Kevin. I reviewed the labels you sent. I’ve decided I will approach the homeowner’s association about their decision to apply any type of pesticide.

    It seems very uneccessary to apply pesticides (organic-approved or not) to landscaping.

    It also concerns me that the homeowner association manager had to call the company to find out what they sprayed; she didn’t even know what she had contracted for. As far as I can tell, we got lucky that it wasn’t something more toxic.

    The plight of the honey bees really concerns me as well. Perhaps this is a stretch, but folks are responsive to cute advertising campaigns regarding honey bees, such as Haagen-Dazs, but they still think it’s okay to spray trees with pesticides. This seems inconsistent.


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  • May 27, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    wow, that is frustrating and upsetting! i’m sorry you are dealing with that. if they are going to spray with organic stuff that might irritate bees and other pollinators, maybe they could be encouraged to spray early in the morning (before 10a) or in the evenings, when the buzzing/flying types are usually tucked into bed.

  • May 27, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks Jess. I will mention that to them as an alternative. They sprayed during working hours; same time the bees were working. 🙁

  • May 28, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    I think that would really upset me as well. I kill plants all on my own, though. I have a black thumb. But that doesn’t really seem fair!

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