Having just moved from a house with no garden (a nice courtyard with herb pots and a dwarf apple tree being the best our previous house could offer) to one with 2 acres – with fields, an overly planted, rambling garden, fruit orchard, veggie plot and crumbling Victorian potting shed – we were feeling slightly overwhelmed with the task set before us. Especially because, despite very green-fingered parents, my knowledge of all things garden-y is fairly basic, as in, ‘you put the seeds in the soil, and water them. If you’re lucky, something grows…’ kind of knowledge.
One of the first jobs we decided to do was simply reclaiming the garden back from all the triffids that seemed to have taken over in the year it was left abandoned. Luckily, my husband is obsessed with power tools, and having allowed him to get a leaf blower, hedge cutter, strimmer and chain saw, he was happy enough wreaking havoc . However, when it came to needing a smidge more finesse to get rid of the nettles, bind weed and goose grass that had decided to do a hostile takeover, we were a bit stuck. Our neighbour had told us that the previous owner had been completely organic – no chemicals had been used either as fertiliser or as weed killer. ‘Yes, you can tell!’ was my immediate thought, along with ‘why on earth not? Why not kill off the vicious nettles with one easy spray?!’ I decided to investigate.
Well, what a hideous, cancer-inducing, wildlife-destroying can of worms that turned out to be. Even a quick internet search turned up a range of horror stories about the evils of pesticides and the long term effect many of the chemicals used in them have. There were debates as to why councils should stop using pesticides on places such as schools and reports on the damage to our wildlife. Court payouts given to groundskeepers in America who have developed cancer from using particular pesticides would indicate that someone, somewhere who understands the chemical composition and effect on biology has made a damning connection. But how much difference does it make when we are using our little spray in our small patch? This is less clear, with ‘organic’ being a hotly contested area, both in food production and gardening style – partially because of the cost of being organic is so much higher.
However, the thing to maybe ask ourselves is – could the cost of NOT being organic eventually be the highest one of all? What price do we put on our health, or on our soil and its ability to grow our food? Or our bees and butterflies? I am not a fully convinced convert – the idea of tackling all of those nettles and goose grass without any kind of chemical help is a little intimidating, especially for a novice like me, but I certainly won’t be spraying anything willy-nilly onto my garden. And I will be researching how to do things chemical free from now on. Even if it costs more in time and money. Because I quite like having things that grow, I’ve decided.