These days, there are any number of reasons not to use pesticides in your garden. Spraying chemicals onto plants can harm the useful insects who feed on them, such as bees and ladybirds, and birds and hedgehogs are in danger of eating slugs and snails who have died from slug pellets, and being poisoned themselves.
Slug pellets can also harm household pets if ingested, and chemical sprays are harmful to the gardener if inhaled.
Organic and chemical-free methods might be less effective and more effort but they’re safe to use and have far less environmental impact. Here are our tips for greener gardening.
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1. A Natural approach. Most of the smaller harmful insects such as aphids (greenfly) have natural predators.
Ladybirds are great at cleaning up aphids, and you don’t even have to wait until some settle in your garden – you can buy adult ladybirds and larvae online and release them.
Hedgehogs are vociferous when it comes to eating slugs, so encourage them to take up residence by leaving wild patches of scrub of brambles in your garden, especially near the bottom of hedges, and leaving out water and purpose-made hedgehog food.
2. Harvest by hand
Every so often, clear vegetable plants and vulnerable seedlings of larger pests such as caterpillars and slugs by hand to prevent too much damage.
3. Non-chemical sprays
Aphid infestations may respond to spraying with water with a dash of washing up liquid added. There are also several kinds of organic sprays available which use concentrated plant oils to deter pests.
4. Clever planting
Some species of plants are particularly vulnerable to attack by predators, so mixing these in with less appealing plants means pests are less likely to find the ones they want. Marigolds emit a strong scent that confuses whitefly and blackfly, so planting a few among your tomato plants will help protect them.
Slugs and snails are a particularly insidious pest, and can be extremely destructive.
Make a safe, effective slug trap by putting an empty, hollowed out half melon upside down, and removing the slugs each morning.
Slugs are also partial to a drop of beer – sink a container in your flower bed up to the rim, and add half an inch of beer to the bottom.
If you draw the line at killing your garden slugs, try a physical barrier to surround plants such as copper piping, crushed eggshells, straw or used coffee grounds.
Great buys for your garden
Treat your garden to some of these great buys!
Make your own insect house, the Oak Room
This comprehensive but compact DIY kit contains all you need to make your own insect house for bees, ladybirds and other species. Contents include the wooden kit, glue, bamboo tubes and decorative wooden ladybirds. RRP £9.99, available from The Oak Room.
Solitary bee houses, All Lovely Stuff
These ‘bees knees’ bee houses are designed for solitary bees, a species who’ll pollinate trees and garden flowers. Made from machined oak and steel, the houses come as a set of three, each one measuring approximately 35cm x 35cm x 10cm, and are designed by Ester Comunello for All Lovely Stuff Available from Nook Shop.
Seedbom wildflower mixes, Kabloom
Great for attracting lots of useful insect life to your garden are these wildflower seedbombs from Kabloom.
Each bomb contains a different mixture of British wildflower seeds, including Pollinator BeeBom, Poppy PeaceBom, LoveBom (Forget-Me-Not), ThymeBom, Sunflower Power, Cornflower FieldBom, Urban BeeBom and Great British Bloomer, and the packaging is handmade in the UK from 95% recycled, organic, ecofriendly and biogradable materials. £3.50 each, available from Cotswold Trading.