Have you thought of using more organic gardening practices... even if only to ensure that the vegetables and fruit that you eat are free of pesticides and chemical residues.
It is not as hard as you think - and you can go as far as you like, for example, retaining your spray programme for your roses but eliminating chemicals from your vegetable garden and lawn.
Organic gardening is gardening with nature- using the natural controls to reduce or eliminate pests and disease in your garden and natural sources of enrichment for your garden soil.
Many people are gardening organically in the ornamental garden. Living with a little black spot on the roses and using natural solutions to coping with pests and disease.
Now more and more people are turning to growing their own vegetables, or even just their own salad crops, to avoid unwitting consumption of chemical residues or other nasties. Growing your own vegetables from seed is one of the best ways of ensuring that you have control over what you eat. Seed sowing is also immensely satisfying, easy and fun.
Restoring the Natural Balance Initially, when you begin to garden naturally there may seem to be a rash of infestations in your vegetable garden, the roses may seem to be covered in aphids. This is because the natural predators of garden pests are also reduced or eliminated in your garden when you use sprays.
Birds are important for pest control
Birds are not interested in searching for aphids on roses that have received a drenching with sprays, the 'good' insects that eat the nasty and undesirable bugs that infest your vegetables have been killed along with the 'bad'.
Use disease resistant plants, here Rosa 'Martin Frobisher'
Not an Easy Way Out Let's be honest. Gardening organically is not the easy option. Natural controls work best if you get in early and if you are vigilant. Garden hygiene is very important. You must keep the garden weeded, remove litter that is likely to breed fungi and disease. (Your compost heap will benefit from this litter, your roses won't!).
It is far easier, if you are a busy person, to blitz the garden every so often, using chemical sprays to kill aphids and weed killer where borders, lawns or driveways need it.
But it is also true that the more you use sprays the more that you will need them - natural predators will not 'bounce back' quickly enough to cope with the next crop of aphids and the spray will have to come out again. Once you have used a weed killer or pesticide the residues remain and you cannot quickly restore the natural balance.
Disease-resistant plants Garden with disease-resistant plants - for instance, many modern roses are like a thorough bred horse and require spraying and pruning to look well. There are many roses, both older varieties and those being bred today, which survive and look magnificent without spraying. Similarly avoid perennials that attract aphids and other pests and use vegetable varieties that have stood the test of time.
The secret lies in the soil One of the keys of a healthy organic garden lies in the soil. Good soil promotes healthy plants and healthy plants are far less susceptible to pests and disease.
Almost all gardeners have a compost heap and organic gardeners are even more likely to. Feed the soil and your plants, ensure that they are not weakened by lack of water and you will find them far more resistant to disease.
If you live in an area with less than great soils, there are ways to improve you lot. One great way is with a 'no-dig' garden. You can use it for ornamental or vegetable gardening, simply varying the materials used and the shapes to fit with your overall garden design.
A Caffeine Fix for Slugs and Snails In one of the best pieces of gardening news in recent years scientists have discovered that slugs and snails detest caffeine.
Using Autumn Leaves Autumn means leaves. Lots of them for most of us. A Nuisance? It's all too easy to gather them into a rubbish sack and put them out on the kerb for the rubbish truck.
Decaying leaves make a mess of the lawn, but they can make valuable, rich leaf mould. One of the best and most nutrient-rich composts around.
You can make a pile of leaves in a cool and shady corner, and simply wait for them to rot down. It takes about a year for most deciduous leaves, although magnolia, red and pin oak leaves, and some others will take longer.
Using a few stakes to hold a chicken wire 'circle' will keep the leaves tidy and stop the bids from scattering them.
As an alternative to a leaf pile, try using a large hole dug in the ground, as leaves settle you can add more, and then empty next autumn when they have decomposed, refilling the leaf-pit again.
In smaller gardens, where space is at a premium, a large plastic rubbish sack, with aeration holes pierced in the base, will hold decomposing leaves.
Or, in even smaller gardens, you can pile the leaves into that black rubbish bag, punch a couple of holes in the bottom, and place it in a shady, cool place. After a year, presto!, leaf mould.
More Organic Gardening...
Using Mulch Garden books, garden programmes, garden lecturers and now bestgardening.com.
Why is it so important to mulch, what does it mean and what benefit is there in mulching over your garden beds?
The short answer to 'Why mulch?' is that there are lots of benefits. A layer of mulch over the soil smothers weed seeds, which cannot then germinate. Mulching can reduce herbicide use and is one of the best options for weed control in organic gardens.
Dealing with Pests If natural predators don't keep pests to an acceptable level then you need to intervene.
Companion Planting We have all heard the line that 'roses love garlic', possibly the most famous of all companion planting associations.
Companion Planting is based on the premise that plants have such likes and dislikes about their neighbours. Also that particular plants can reduce the incidence of pests in the garden.
No Dig Gardening It sounds too good to be true, but it not only works, it's also easy!
Sometimes called lasagne gardening the 'no-dig' technique makes it possible to garden flowers and vegetables sucessfully and easily.
Composting One of the keys to successful organic gardening, composting is not only easy, it can be fun.
Make a compost pile in your garden and reap the benefits. Read about composting in our feature
When you are out in the garden, take a look at the birds there, for they are there, whatever the season.
Gardens are critical to maintaining bird populations as native bush that provided food sources, nest sites and shelter have diminished and the numbers of birds with them.
Recycling Recycling can involve more than composting garden rubbish. The bottom-half of plastic drink bottles make perfect individual mini-cloches to get vegetables away early, seeds can be sown in used milk cartons and newspapers weighted with soil or stones at the corner will protect vegetables such as potatoes from frost.