Sustainable Gardening: Cut out chemicals
Insects are essential to life on earth, including life in our garden. As pollinators, predators, prey and parasites they keep our garden healthy. They pollinate our food crops, provide food for much of our cherished wildlife and dispose of our waste! Yet, 41% face extinction. It’s not too late to bring them back, but urgent action is needed.
We can all help by eliminating, or at least significantly reducing our use of harmful chemicals - many of which are also harmful to human health too.
Controlling pests and diseases
Try and learn as much as possible about the sort of pests which are attracted to your plants and natural ways of controlling them. These include physical interventions like picking off slugs and aphids by hand, putting up barriers like crushed eggshells to prevent unwelcome intruders, and encouraging natural predators. Garden Organic has a wealth of information on how to deal organically with pests and diseases and Pesticide Action Network UK have a guide to gardening without pesticides which you can download. The RHS advise their hundreds and thousands of members and millions of other gardeners to avoid using pesticides.
Healthy growing works on the principle of prevention, rather than cure. Always maintain a healthy, active soil with plenty of nutrients, using compost and manures. Crop rotation helps to prevent diseases from building up in the soil so vary where you plant your vegetables year after year. Growing flowers with vegetables attracts beneficial wildlife, such as caterpillar-eating birds and aphid-eating insects. Using toxic chemicals kills not only the pest, but creates health hazards for the beneficial wildlife that play a part in controlling the pests in your garden. Choose plants and varieties that are suited to the site and soil as they will have a better chance of being strong enough to fight off pests and diseases. Finally, be vigilant, keep out pests, such as slugs, caterpillars and pigeons, by constantly checking your barriers, traps and covers. Especially after rain or in damp conditions.
The toxic effects of chemicals containing neonicatinoids have been a cause of concern for some time and in 2018 the EU banned their outdoor use in order to protect bees – but you still need to be vigilant when buying plants to check that they haven’t been sprayed with a neonicotinoid containing chemical.
Five reasons why you shouldn't use weed killer
Weeds can contribute to your growing area's biodiversity. To use toxic chemicals to obliterate them is simply not necessary.
Most contain glyphosate, which has been found to be carcinogenic.
Glyphosate is usually mixed in chemical formulations to make it more effective. These formulations, such as Roundup or Weedol Path Clear, are potentially far more dangerous.
None of these formulations has been independently tested for safety. Government regulatory bodies only test individual components, and industry never reveals their exact make-up.
Independent research has revealed that glyphosate also affects the body’s endocrine system – causing problems in the liver and kidneys. Industry testers dispute this, but have declined to reveal all the results of their safety tests.
Get rid of weeds the organic way
Before you get rid of any weeds, ask yourself whether it's necessary because over tidy gardens are not good for wildlife. A wild, sunny corner with some nettles will help butterflies.
Don’t see weeding as a chore - little and often is the way.
Gardening Organic has a good guide to Organic Weed Management