100_4002Planting out, I scrutinise each plant for health. I discard damaged or poorly growing plants. I pick off pests.

But there are some problems I can’t do anything about.

The neighbour’s 2,4-D overspray is one of those.

2,4-D is a broadleaf herbicide that has become increasingly popular with our neighbours over the past five years. Unfortunately, it is extremely volatile, so if the wind is blowing our direction when they spray, we are enveloped in a cloud of herbicide.

It usually doesn’t kill our plants outright, but it has long-lasting effects on them. Grapes are particularly susceptible, but we’ve had damage to nearly every vegetable crop in some years. Some plants, like the green beans, seem to be able to ‘grow out’ of the damage. Others never do, and the effects of an early spring spray can still be seen at harvest time in late summer.

This year, the first overspray hit us in mid-October. Though the frost-tender crops weren’t in the garden yet, they were in the greenhouse, and didn’t escape damage.

I’d surveyed the damage in general as the plants were massed in the greenhouse, but as I inspected each plant at plant out time, I saw the full extent of the damage.

The most obvious early sign of 2,4-D damage is deformation of the leaves—they elongate and curl, and develop odd-looking venation. They can also bleach, sometimes looking nearly white. This year, the tomatoes were particularly hard-hit, with almost all the young leaves deformed. Eggplants, too. Thankfully, the peppers seem to have escaped, and many plants weren’t even up yet, so they made it, too.

I accept that my neighbours aren’t organic farmers, and that they have little control over when the contractor comes to do their spraying, but still it is discouraging to face the same overspray problems year after year.

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