It may come as a shock to anyone thinking of taking up gardening as a hobby or as a way to beat back the credit crunch by doing a little grow-your-own that gardening is based entirely on chemistry. There is no escaping this simple truth. Chemicals grow in the garden. There is no such thing as chemical-free gardening.
Now I’m not talking about the manufactured pesticides, herbicides, and fertilisers that your local garden centre stocks in abundance, whether those are labelled organic, all-natural, or otherwise, those are all chemicals, and some of them are essential for success. Incidentally, even all-natural pesticides are made from chemicals shock, horror. No, I’m talking fundamentals from the humus that brings life to soil to the best initiator you can add to your compost heap – urine. All chemicals.
There are four main chemical ingredients that make up everything in the garden (with the exception of any cast-iron furniture you may have): – carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen – as organic molecules from humic acids to the proteins that comprise earthworms to nitrates and water, and the potassium and phosphorus that plants simply cannot live without.
This autumn, I made the life-affirming decision to tidy up our garden, to weed and feed the lawn, to dig a vegetable patch and to plant some bulbs in the border to bring a little colour to the Spring. So, for the last few weeks, I’ve been hanging with my hoes and developing serious backache from getting down and dirty. I’ll let you know in March whether the colour came and whether I’ve got a crop of winter greens. Actually, I planted purple brocolli, onions, garlic, and am readying a patch for early potatoes, and a mini portable greenhouse is ready for tomato plants in the Spring.
Incidentally, the only thing you can put into your garden that will have a positive effect and isn’t chemical is effort. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Find out a little about the chemistry of compost next Friday (September 25).