Letter to BBC Gardeners World MagazinePosted Wednesday 13th April 2011
I have no doubt that Alan Titchmarsh’s column in the May edition about the use of peat and pesticides was meant to be provocative and perhaps a little mischievous. This seems to me unhelpful and ill advised at a time when we need with some urgency to work out how we will reduce our carbon footprint sufficiently to allow 9 billion people to inhabit this planet sustainably by 2050.
Alan’s deliberately provocative comments seem very out of step with a growing national passion for wildlife gardening and organic home food growing, and we’re concerned that, as a role model for many gardeners, Alan ought to be careful about what he advocates.
By his own suggestion, Alan calls himself a ‘responsible gardener’, aware of his role ‘as a custodian of the natural world’. However in the same breath he suggests that using environmentally harmful chemicals to clear weeds is acceptable, as long as he has spent some time in gentle contemplation about it! We need to take the issue of sustainability a great deal more seriously - horticulture has an opportunity to lead the way, but not using this approach.
Alan’s comments on peat use are also out of step with his actions. On the one hand he acknowledges peat as a ‘valuable commodity in nature’, but on the next he says it’s acceptable to use it as long as it’s not in its pure form. If every gardener were to take this apparently ‘considered approach’ then where would we be? We know that horticulture alone causes 400,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions through peat extraction every year.
Sales of weedkillers have gone up by 13% since 2007, revealing that gardeners’ use of these products is neither considered nor responsible and it is more likely they are simply following the advice given by well-known and trusted personalities like Alan. It should be noted that ingredients found in many branded weedkillers aren’t even deemed safe enough to be processed through authority composting schemes and some with the active ingredient of clopyralid have caused considerable grief for gardeners.
With over fifty years of researching and practising organic gardening, Garden Organic knows that it is possible to be a successful gardener without the need for using these products. Gardeners do have the opportunity to be custodians of the environment, but not if they’re following Alan’s dubious ‘conscientious’ approach. It may sound comfortably moderate and sensible - but then that does save the reader from having to think about it too deeply, doesn’t it.