What’s your poison?
For anyone who isn’t convinced of the need for adopting a greener approach to gardening, it’s worth taking a few minutes to wander the shelves of a local garden centre, looking at some commonly used products. Look under “precautions” – “Keep off skin. Do not breathe spray. Wash hands and exposed skin after use. Dangerous to fish/ aquatic life. Extremely dangerous to bees. Warning: this product contains metaldehyde which can kill if eaten – Everyday low price, £1.99…” At present, the number of toxic substances we can buy for trivial sums is fantastic. It’s our world, and your decision!
- Slugs are a favourite target for poisoning, understandably. But conventional slug pellets contain substances such as metaldehyde, which can poison birds, hedgehogs and other animals, including pets – and us. For more information and a veritable feast of alternatives, try the Pesticide Action Network, CAT’s Slugs Tipsheet or their the Little Book of Slugs, the Henry Doubleday Research Association’s advice on pests and diseases, or any good organic gardening book.
- Understanding the enemy is essential to a greener approach. With slugs, this can mean anything from choosing plants that they detest (such as lavender) to hunting for them where they’re most likely to appear – on the underside of planks, or just about anywhere after dark. Another example is carrot fly, which only fly up to a certain height above the ground. So carrots can be planted in raised planters, or surrounded by lightweight screens, to keep the marauders at bay.
- Encouraging natural predators – toads, frogs, hedgehogs, ladybirds and a host of others – is also key: all part of Wildlife gardening.
- Humane traps and electronic deterrents are another approach for “pests” – there are various devices for use against anything from cats to cockroaches.
But organic gardening is more than just avoiding poisons: it’s an integrated approach to maintaining plant health from the soil up without the need for chemical inputs. Much expert advice and inspiration is available, not least from the UK’s organic gardening organisation, Garden Organic, the working name for the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA). But a good way to start is with compost.