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Signs of the Times? Plus: Remembering Jack Eden

What does this sign mean, exactly, and would it be dangerous for a motorist to try to follow it?

onlysign.jpg

Here's another sign I saw recently, outside a Staples:

shredders.jpg

I feel for everyone involved in that particular transaction.

There's the person who designed the "innovative" shredders (he probably once dreamed of bringing clean drinking water to Africa or finding a non-polluting form of renewable energy).

Then there's the marketing people who designed the sign ("Dammit, we've been at this all day and we haven't gotten anywhere! How are we going to describe the new Shredco line of paper shredders?" "Um..." "Yes, Ferguson?" "How about 'innovative'?" "You're a genius, Ferguson! No one would ever think of calling a paper shredder 'innovative.'").

And let's not forget the consumers who bought the shredders. They probably would rather have spent their money on an iPod Touch.

Jack Eden, R.I.P.
There's an obituary of Jack Eden in The Post today. Washingtonians will remember him as the area's most visible gardener, with a radio show on WTOP and a column, "Garden of Eden," in our paper and elsewhere.

The obit details the controversy over Eden's methods. He had the misfortune to be at the height of his popularity just as people's tolerance for chemicals was waning. He was from an older school and his recommendations -- a pinch of this fertilizer, a dash of that pesticide, a bit of weed-killing tincture -- were like the prescriptions of a medieval alchemist.

The thing is, his ways worked. People I knew who used the Eden method on their lawns had lush green thatches of grass that they ascribed to him. At what cost to the environment, I'm not sure.

The back yard of the first house My Lovely Wife and I bought was a muddy track, the lawn destroyed by the previous owner's two German shepherds. When I mentioned to my boss, an Eden acolyte, that I hoped some grass would grow back there, he printed out a series of Eden columns on lawn installation and solemnly handed them to me.

Eden was not one to recommend skimping in the garden. He was dismissive of run-of-the-mill grass seed and counseled getting the good stuff. The same with the straw you were supposed to put down atop the freshly sown seed to keep it from being dislodged by rain or eaten by birds. No common barnyard straw for Edenites.

We were to use something called "salt hay," which if I remember correctly was harvested from the salt marshes of New Jersey by virgins during the full moon. Its prime benefit was that it didn't contain the seeds from weeds. It was practically antiseptic. It was also incredibly expensive.

I never knew what Eden's relationship was with Roozens Nursery, just that whenever he mentioned a product he mentioned that you could get it at Roozens. In fact, I think Roozens was the only place you could this exotic salt hay.

I followed his advice nearly to the letter. I have never been so exhausted. The roto-tilling, the raking, the casting down of seed, the painstaking dispersal of hay, the application of fertilizer, the regular watering: I coined the expression "lawn-tired." To be lawn-tired was to be catatonic from effort and fatigue. (Until we had children, it was the tiredest I'd ever been. Newborn babies are on a whole other level, of course.)

Did my lawn succeed? Sort of. It was better than what we had before but large trees meant it never got enough light to remind anyone of a golf course. Part of the problem, I think, was that I put the hallowed salt hay down too thickly in places, choking off the grass seed underneath. Still, there was enough to mow -- and in a few spots it was quite nice.

Many of us may not approve of Jack Eden's methods these days, but wherever he rests, I hope he's covered with a verdant patch of fescue, free from chickweed, dandelion and spurge.

By John Kelly  |  February 5, 2009; 7:38 AM ET
 
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Comments

Don't leave us hanging, John. Did you Edenize the Alsatian Dirt Farm at your first house? Did you do your part to keep the Jersey Virgins working? Did your yard become the envy all around you?

Posted by: mfromalexva | February 5, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

John,

The stupidity of ad writing is such an easy target. Were the Brits any better?

Posted by: reddragon1 | February 5, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

The first sign means that the top screw fell out.

As for the second, some of your newer shredders shred more than just paper. They also shred computer discs, for example.

Posted by: staxowax | February 5, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I remember listening to Jack Eden on the radio. Someplace along the way, he did start mentioning organic alternatives, usually after recommending the usual heavy chemical artillery.

Roozens must have been a sponsor of his show.

Posted by: magicdomino | February 5, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

How about shredders that automatically shut off rather than shredding your fingers? That innovative enough for you?

Posted by: robperez1 | February 6, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I was really baffled by the way the Post treated the death of Jack Eden. He died on January 17 and his death was announced on WMAL on January 24, yet the Post did not put out an obituary until February 5. Then they use his obit as an opportunity to slam the man for his then-orthodox gardening methods. I don't think the Post was so upset at the chemicals, for that controversy was aired by Richard Harwood in 1991. Rather, they never forgave Eden for the stand he took against their using his columns on their online editions which is what led to the abrupt end of his column in 1996. Take a look back at Eden's columns and they are so good at giving step by step methods of working on your yard. Thank you to John Kelly for at least giving another side of the Garden of Eden controversy.

Posted by: MrRamsey | February 9, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Jack Eden had one of those voices that so irritated me that I would actually jump out of the shower to turn off the radio when he came on.

That said, the Post's obit was out of line. A few sentences about Eden's preference for non-organic gardening solutions would have been fine. It should also have explained the nature of "a payment dispute involving the Internet use of his column." As I recall, Eden balked at letting the Post use (and profit from) his print columns on the paper's then-new website.

Posted by: ArtCee | February 10, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

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