Are you buying more garden chemicals than you actually need? We’ve found some weed and bug killers that claim to be for different purposes, but are actually identical in all but name.
So the Which? Gardening team headed for a garden centre and picked up three products from William Sinclair – Nettle Killer, Bramble Killer and Deep Root Ultra Path & Patio Weedkiller.
Despite nettles being rather different from brambles and deep-rooted weeds, all three of these bottles contained exactly the same concentration of the active ingredient, glyphosate.
Next to come under scrutiny were two products claiming to rid your beds of pesky bugs – Growing Success Fruit & Veg Bug Killer and Growing Success Shrub & Flower Bug Killer. Both contained identical amounts of pyrethrum, according to the labels.
Continuing with this trend, we found that big-name Bayer’s Path Weedkiller Concentrate and Long Lasting Ground Clear have the same formulation. And it’s the same story with RoundUp Weedkiller and RoundUp XL Tough & Deep Root Weedkiller ready-to-use sprays.
Weeding the small print
The products inside the bottles may be the same, but apparently it’s perfectly OK to sell them in this slightly ambiguous way. Pete McCarthy, Which? Legal Adviser, told me:
‘Retailers are within their rights to sell similar products which perform similar jobs. A “kitchen cleaner” could contain exactly the same ingredients as a product labelled “bathroom cleaner” but if they both do what they claim to do, it’s not “misrepresentation” or breach of contract.’
That came as a surprise to me. While I’m quite aware that glyphosate will kill any weed, I innocently thought that, in general, most products are tailored to a specific need. I now realise it’s simply because manufacturers pitch them to us that way.
Consumer choice or cynical marketing?
All three manufacturers told us that shoppers buy products based on need – to kill brambles or nettles, for example. William Sinclair said:
‘The instructions on the packs […] are tailored to the relevant weeds to make it simpler for consumers to follow.’
Bayer Garden, meanwhile, told us that consumers would not consider using a ‘path weedkiller’ on other areas of the garden such as the sides of buildings or hedges, so they also sell the formulation as ‘Long Lasting Ground Clear’.
But if manufacturers really wanted to make our lives easier, they’d just sell products labelled ‘weedkiller’ or ‘cleaner’, wouldn’t they? Instead, it appears they’re purely motivated by profit – the practical impact is that we spend more on keeping our gardens weed and bug-free. All at a time when our wallets are more squeezed than ever.
Is selling duplicate gardening products a cynical marketing ploy or genuinely useful for gardeners? And make sure to share any examples you’ve seen on shelves or in your shed.