I thought that I should come clean this week and give my own personal opinion on a couple of the most contentious issues in gardening at the moment and at the same time hope that I still have some friends in the area after this has been published.
The first one is using peat in the garden and whether or not it’s time to be banned. Compared to the amount of peat that is used throughout the world as fuel for fires, power stations etc the amount used in gardens is minuscule. I am not one for spreading the material all around the garden as I feel this is a total waste and we have other materials available for this. It is however, by far the best material at present as the basis for sowing and potting compost, being sterile, of a stable nature and it holds moisture well.
The alternative base materials such as bark and coir are inferior in quality and very variable in nature with coir itself having to be imported from far eastern countries which means a great deal of fuel is used in its transport. Finally some of our finest nature reserves are here as a result of flooded peat diggings. As an example take Leighton Moss in Lancashire and the Norfolk Broads. So I do use peat selectively and I would not like to see it’s use banned, yet.
Secondly the use of pesticides and this is a very contentious issue at present, and my personal belief is that we could not produce all of our food organically. I do believe that conventional farming, using pesticides, helps keep down the pest population which in turn benefits those organic farmers who are close by. I also feel that food would be a lot more expensive without pesticides due to the extra labour input required with organic growing. I must say that I have known one or two growers who tried organic growing but have now given up.
The garden however, is a different place and here chemicals can be kept to a minimum as on such a small scale of growing does it matter if a few aphids attack the roses or caterpillars nibble at the cabbages. Check plants regularly and you can often keep most bugs under control by hand although this is not always the case.
Some pests can potentially wreak havoc in the garden and control by mechanical means is then almost impossible. Slugs, which on one hand do a great deal of good in the garden also, devour our favourite plants so I use pellets but very sparingly and only where required. You don’t have to mulch your ground blue to achieve control. Back to cabbages and I once tried to grow a crop without using chemicals and in the end caterpillars ruined them, even after netting.
Vine weevil also provides an example, as this pest became such a problem, particularly in containers containing soft peaty compost but it took a chemical control to solve the problem. A biological control is now available as an alternative but these can be very expensive for the amateur.
So if no other control is available and my plants are being ruined then I personally have no hesitation in reaching for the chemical bottle, choosing a product that is as kind as possible to useful insects but hopefully deadly to the pest.
I have no real need for weed killer in my own garden as it is only small and most can be removed with the hoe. However, if necessary I would use glyphosate in a ready to use form for killing difficult weeds, which get into awkward places. I am also happy to use a lawn weed killer if and where required. Glyphosate is used in conservation situations so that does help to put any doubts at ease. These are is basically the only weed killers that I use but if I had a larger garden then I would rely on them a lot more and perhaps one other which would be used on drives and paths.
So am I an environmental vandal? Well I don’t believe so and nor is anyone else who cares about the welfare of their plants and takes a common sense attitude to problems. My garden is full of insects and bees that are hopefully feeding on my foreign plants, no nettles here, and the thrushes and blackbirds seem happy despite my very sparing use of slug pellets. No I can’t claim to be organic in the true sense of the word but in my own garden, the last place I have to do what even I like within reason, I do not wish to be dictated to by anyone.