How to make your garden a chemical-free zone
Gardening without chemicals is a good way to ensure that the food grown in your garden is free of pesticides or chemicals, and that the plants you grow will thrive without extra expense and danger that chemicals can add. If you’ve used chemicals in the past, this might sound like an invitation to every pest for miles around to shred your garden in days... and that might well happen at first.
Often, spraying to deal with pests can kill the predators too, or at least make them want to avoid your garden. When you stop using chemicals, aphids are the first animal to return as they have a shorter breeding cycle. Their predators may take longer to return, so stick with it and know it will be better in the long run!
In the end you’ll wonder why you ever needed chemicals in the first place. We promise!
Our top tip for going chemical free is to ensure your garden has as much variety as possible to ensure no one species will be able to gain control. The more complex and varied your garden is, the more resilient it becomes. In the end you’ll wonder why you ever needed chemicals in the first place. We promise!
Browse the drop-down sections below for suggestions to help you get well on your way to a wildlife-friendly chemical-free garden:
Encourage natural predators
Attracting wildlife to your garden will bring in lots of natural predators that will help keep pest numbers down. For example, a log pile will attract a variety of insects, and draw in natural insect predators like birds. Slugs, a notorious pest of vegetable patches, are a favourite food of hegdehogs and slow-worms - a hedgehog highway, shelter and some food will do a great job of attracting these prickly favourites, while laying down some corrugated metal sheeting will provide a warm refuge for slow-worms to move in.
Frogs enjoy a good aphid feast, so installing a small pond in your garden may well help you control these pests, as well as providing a valuable home for amphibians. Another classic predator of aphids is the ladybird. Draw these attractive beetles into your garden by planting nettles. Nettles attract nettle aphids earlier in the year than other aphids, meaning that by the time pest aphids come along, you will have some resident ladybirds to take care of the problem for you!
Try companion planting
Companion planting is the practice of planting 'companion' plants among other plants to help them grow by either attracting beneficial insects, repelling pests, or by acting as a sacrificial plant to lure pests away from those you want to protect.
Nettles being used to draw in ladybirds earlier in the season to combat aphids is an example of companion planting. Chives, onions and garlic are widely reported to have a repellent effect on many pests. You may decide to plant some lettuce near the edges of your vegetable patch to keep slugs on the fringes, where you can catch them before they get to the plants you want to harvest! Take a look at our page on companion planting for more ideas.