Some thoughts on the benefits and pitfalls of using chemicals in the garden plot. Plus a bit of advice.
I was a bit worried about my tomato crop this year, particularly in the polytunnel. Despite the soil in the border being enriched with manure and compost they were looking peaky.
It’s not easy to be sure what the problem is. Possibly a manganese deficiency or magnesium. Maybe iron. Possibly, although I doubt it, simple nitrogen due to the additions made to the soil at the start of the year. The problem is that all those deficiencies present in pretty much the same way.
Usually a compost made from varied materials will provide the micronutrients that are needed but in a situation like this where I need to do something quickly an artificial chemical fertiliser is the best answer. A vitamin pill for the plants.
My booster tomato feed that I made up myself with added s-chelate trace elements was applied about 10 days ago and they’ve responded well. They’re looking greener and healthier already. I’ve given them another feed this weekend just to reinforce the benefits.
Although I like to use natural, organic feeds where practical, that isn’t always the best answer. Sometimes chemicals – by which I mean artificial fertilisers – are the best way to ensure a decent crop.
It’s important to be thoughtful on fertiliser use. Over supply won’t give any additional benefits and is wasteful at best. At worst it is counter-productive causing sappy growth that pests love and even killing the plant by damaging the roots.
Moving on to pests, I’ve been getting a lot of correspondence about aphids, blackfly and whitefly. They seem particularly bad this year for some reason.
The first rule is simple, “Don’t Panic!”. Plants tend to cope with a certain amount of pest pressure. Given time the predators numbers will increase and naturally gobble up most of the problem for you.
If you do have to take action, do the minimum you can. For example, blackfly on the growing tip of broad beans is often a problem. A hosing with a jet of water to wash them off is often enough. The next step is to just snip the juicy, blackfly-attracting tips off.
There are sprays that are organic and safe like SB Plant Invigorator that you can use on crops without fear of residues in the food. They work by smothering the pests, blocking their breathing. SB Plant Invigorator also contains a plant stimulatingt foliar feed promoting strong healthy growth that resists the pests better.
Being truthful, organic sprays take longer to apply as you need to be more thorough. They’re often not as effective as an insecticide chemical based spray. But, and this is what you need to really think about, are you comfortable with ingesting a tiny amount of a bug spray when you eat your produce?
With insecticide sprays check they’re suitable for edible crops. Some bug killers may well be effective and environmentally friendly – not killing beneficial species – but if the powers that be have not approved them for use on crops you could be poisoning yourself after harvest.
Read the directions. Don’t ever think ‘I’ll use a bit extra in the mix’ These chemical sprays are effective and safe only when used as directed. That goes for things like slug pellets as well.