Tips for gardening without chemicals

Inspired by our minister for the environment, Therese Coffey, tweeting a picture of a big bottle of Roundup, which she was about to spray about her garden, I thought I'd write a little blog post about ways you can garden more greenly and look after your environment while enjoying your eco flaars.

The awful truth about proprietory weedkillers like Roundup is that, though in the short term if feels as though you're achieving a great deal, killing off whatever weed it is that bothers you, you then do have to sit back and watch while, over a period of days, those weeds slowly die, looking awfully sad in the process.  And then after they're dead you still have to clear them away, only now you have to wear protective clothing and a mask so that you don't get glyphosate all over your clothes or breathe it in. Is it not just easier to clear weeds you don't want in the first place, rather than kill them and then have to clear them anyway?

I say keep some of your garden weeds because then you'll have wildlife.  You know Fabrizio's old adage, 'Look after the invertebrates and the rest of the food chain will look after itself.'  Well if you leave nettles then the butterflies have somewhere to lay their eggs.  If you leave hogweed then the goldfinches will have food for the winter.  If you leave aphids then the ladybirds will flourish.  Leave slugs and snails even, and the hedgehogs and toads will have something to eat.  

If you don't spray then the community of organisms which make up your soil will happily flourish, allowing the micorrhiza (those little white hairs on plant roots... they're tiny fungi called micorrhiza) to encourage the relationship between plant roots and soil, and all your plants will be better for it.

If you have weeds growing up between paving stones and you can't face the fiddle of trying to get their roots up, I say don't bother: you could mow the path with the mower blades set relatively high, and you'll have attractive green cushions growing between the stones, and there's no need for glyphosate.  

If you have slugs and snails attacking your dahlias or lettuces, please don't use slug pellets because they end up poisoning the birds who will eat a dead slug as soon as a live one.  So there's a thought - you can still kill your slugs... I'd use scissors on an evening slug patrol (especially after rain!) and fling the murdered slugs away from your precious lettuces where the dead slug will not only attract hungry birds, but its canibalistic brothers and sisters too, who will happily clear up the mess for you.  Don't flinch!  This is excellent advice!

Bon, it is not my job to hector, and people must do what they must do.  But if you can think twice before putting poison on your garden, then here I've given you lots of tips.  And if anyone makes remarks about your flourishing nettle patch then just tell them that you're leaving them for the butterflies.  And for a cloud of fluttering butterflies then we will all be grateful. 

If we all practice a little bit more wildlife gardening then all our back gardens will make havens for wildlife which sometimes feels a little hounded out of the countryside.  Just a thought...

PS Here at Common Farm Flowers between Bruton and Wincanton in Somerset we have a seven acre plot, half of which is kept wild, and half of which is cultivated.  When we cut flowers for our flower delivery bouquets they are cut from a garden which our customers are helping to support as a wildlife haven in which goldfinches, bullfinches, chaffinches, black caps, wrens, sparrows, blue tits, long tailed tits, and more fight it out with the magpies, filled for their battle with aphids living on our plants.