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any Jerry Baker tonic fans?

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by A1 Grass, Sep 2, 2003.

  1. A1 Grass

    A1 Grass LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 330

    I'll admit I have sprayed a couple of yards with beer/ammonia/soap, but not enough to notice any change.

    Anybody else looked into his "tonic" recipes?
  2. Fireman D

    Fireman D LawnSite Member
    Messages: 77

    I have tried a few on my personel yard and have noticed some great results when you follow his program to a "T". I don't have irrigation in my yard, but boy if I did I would be cutting my lawn probably 3 or 4 times a week. His tonics will kick the grass into high gear.
  3. Dchall_San_Antonio

    Dchall_San_Antonio LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    I used his tonic to kill of an infestation of pill bugs one year. Haven't had any problems nearly like that since.

    By and large, most of his tonics are not exactly pro-organic. Here's why. With organics we're doing everything we can to promote the health of soil and leaf-borne microbes along with the beneficial insects. A couple of the ingredients JB promotes are antimicrobial. For example: mouth wash, nicotine, and beer (alcohol). You could argue that once you dilute these in a sprayer that there is no antibacterial activity left. Could be, I don't know. But the ingredients I use I do know are not a problem. The harshest thing I suggest using is chlorinated tap water.
  4. Grassmechanic

    Grassmechanic LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,697

    Jerry Baker, pure and simple, is a fraud. Many Ag universities have studied his methods and have concluded that his "tonics" do nothing to help or hurt the pest problems. Besides, anyone who pours perfectly good beer on their lawn instead of in themselves is in serios need of help:D
  5. Popsicle

    Popsicle LawnSite Member
    Messages: 189

    The true definition of alcohol abuse!
  6. yardmonkey

    yardmonkey LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 341

    I had someone tell me that they used one of his tonics one time with miraculous results. But who knows, could have been coincidental. I once talked to the extension agent here about those crazy tonics and he told me that they were just alternate ways to do things, just using commonly available stuff instead of buying a more appropriate ingredient. Like he said maybe the cola is a source for sugar to feed the microbes, where you could just use molasses from the feedstore.

    I have a couple of Baker's books - an old verion of Jerry Baker's Lawn Book from 1987, and Backyard Problem Solver from 2002. The older book doesn't seem to get too much into the tonics, the newer one is full of them. He even has a whole chapter in the back - about 120 different formulas! So this seems to be his thing now. At the beginning of the chapter he explains what each ingredient is for. He says the mouthwash is actually to kill "disease germs". Other ingredients used are ammonia, baby shampoo, beer, cola, epsom salts, sugar, molasses, corn syrup, tea, tobacco, urine and whiskey.

    I haven't spent that much time with his books, but probably there is lots to learn from them. He doesn't seem to be totally organically oriented and the tonics do seem weird. Probably this is kind of his hook into the marketplace. One thing I have noticed - there are tons of books on lawncare, etc on ebay and you can usually get them pretty cheap - but Baker's books always go for high-dollar. He seems to have quite a marketing machine going. Check out his website here: http://www.jerrybaker.com

    I don't know if he is really a fraud, but I don't really trust him and I wouldn't recommend spending much time or money on his books. There are tons of books on organic lawn care and they all seem to be pretty much in agreement on things and no one else seems to be recommending these tonics made from household products.
  7. Dchall_San_Antonio

    Dchall_San_Antonio LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    Thanks for the list, yardmonkey. I'll give y'all my own, personal opinion on each item.

    ammonia - excellent source of nitrogen but not organic. Does not last in the soil.
    baby shampoo - excellent wetting agent to get water to penetrate deeper into the soil. A lot seems to kill some insects, too.
    beer - no appreciable value except to capture the attention of the viewer.
    cola - a source of sugar for microbes and a wetting agent. Cola has a pH of 3.0
    epsom salts - a source of magnesium to balance sodium and calcium salts in soil
    sugar, molasses, corn syrup - all sugar sources with neutral pH and some wetting agent capacity.
    tea - no appreciable value
    tobacco - nicotine extract is freakin' dangerous to be near, highly toxic which is why it's off the market.
    urine - excellent source of natural urea fertilizer
    whiskey - no appreciable value and possibly negative due to the alcohol's nonselective antibacterial capability.
    mouthwash - another nonselective antibacterial agent. Will kill beneficial and disease microbes.
  8. yardmonkey

    yardmonkey LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 341

    Well, actually I thought I was being a bit lazy this morning by just listing the ingredients and not indicating what Baker says they are for, so here's some info from page 330 of Backyard Problem Solver:

    Ammonia - readily available source of nitrogen
    Antiseptic Mouthwash - destroys disease germs
    Baby Shampoo and Liquid Dish Soap - to help soften and remove dust, dirt and pollutants from plants and "sends bugs packing"
    Beer - "helps release the nutrients that are locked in the soil and puts 'em to work making your plants grow stronger, healthier and better able to nip and problems in the bud" (and how does it do this?)
    Cola - feeds good bacteria
    Epsom Salts - deepens color, thickens petals, improves roots
    Sugar, Molasses, Corn Syrup - stimulate chlorophyll formation and helps feed soil bacteria
    Tea - "contains tannic acid, which helps plants digest their food faster and more easily. As I always say - a well-fed plant is a healthy plant!" (yeah, but how does the tea help the plants "digest their food"?)
    Tobacco "is pretty nasty stuff - it poisons bugs when they ingest it or when they simply come into contact with it. It does the same thing to some of the germs that cause plant diseases."
    Urine - "from any source (your choice) has a powerful - and frightening - smell that will send critters like deer and gophers galloping off to find friendlier territory."
    Whiskey, "whether its scotch, bourbon or the plain old rotgut variety, provides nutrients and is a mild disinfectant that'll keep bugs and thugs away."

    Seems wacky to me that he uses all this stuff but not the more traditional things that all the organic books mention. I hadn't given Baker that much thought before, but it does seem like he's just capitalizing on his own little ideas - which no one else seems to be trying to copy. I'm sure there is something to all of this, but I don't trust it when someone says this does that, but they don't say why or how. I gues if he explained things more - like epsom salt contains magnesium, then people could just use whatever they wanted that did the same thing - don't let the secrets out!

    But then the back cover of the book says that "Jerry Baker is America's foremost authority on lawn, garden, and plant care." So I guess we'll just have to trust him......
  9. Grassmechanic

    Grassmechanic LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,697

    Does it say in the book where he got his education from? Anyone can give themselves a title, and as long as they keep repeating it enough, people may actually believe them. He is a snake oil peddler with a marketing scheme. I put him in the same category as Miss Cleo. He is the laughingstock at every Ag school that I've been to. People should not take him seriously. In fact, he should be ignored so he'll go away.
  10. crawdad

    crawdad LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,938

    I put beer on my lawn, but I filter it through my belly first.

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