With glyphosate turning up in our bread, 95% of neonicotenoids leaching into watercourses and field margins, and an average of 20 sprayings of dessert apples each year, should we look at how we garden, and buy our food?
There is always pressure for good looking and cheap food. Ultimately this pressure comes from the consumer, which is you and me.
Recent research at Sussex University found that only 4% of neonicotinoid are used by their target plant. 1% is blown away as dust and 95% washes into field margins and watercourses. Sussex have also found that they harm bees, bumble bees, butterflies and birds. Sprays used by many gardeners such as ‘Ultimate Bug Killer’ contain neonicotinoids.
So for those of us who grow vegetables it seems sensible to try and use no chemicals. Using artificial fertiliser may not do much harm in itself. But the unnaturally fast plant growth that follows leads to thin plant walls prone to easy attack by insects and fungi. You then have to spray them with systemic insecticides and fungicides such as organophosphates.
It makes sense, and should be much cheaper, not to motion better for the health of ourselves and our children, to try and use natural means to make our crops grow well. Keeping your soil rich in organic matter and sowing healthy seed at the right time of the year is all you need to do.
There are quite a few gardeners who say they garden for wildlife, but who also use liberal if not excessive quantities of slug pellets. No matter what the manufacturers say, we know someone whose dog died when it found a cache of slug pellets. These pellets are seriously harmful to more than just slugs: many grubs and beetles are killed, and some of them might otherwise be eating slug eggs. These dead animals are then eaten by frogs and birds, and so the poison works its way up the food chain.
While ranting about chemicals, a persistent herbicide made by Dow called aminopyralid has been turning up in many bagged composts this year. Many people think the abnormal or stunted plant they have grown is their own fault. But not your vegetable correspondent! He has received £40 in compensation for mutilated crops of beans, sweet peas and tomatoes.
So please, everybody, think about how you garden and how you buy your food. And why do chemists not like nitrates? Because they are more expensive than day rates.
What to sow this month
Garlic cloves, overwintering onions and Aquadulce broad beans can be sown early in the month for harvesting next June/July. Best establishment comes if you keep the birds off with netting or fleece.