Why I disagree with Monty

Monty Don has stirred things up again, this time with a statement that picking and squishing is the only way to get rid of lily beetle.

Aaaaargh! Not CHEMICALS!!!!!!!

I’ll admit right out that I use two chemicals – those decidedly inorganic things – in the garden. One is glyphosate and the other is Provado Ultimate Bug Killer.

Glyphosate is useful for getting at the Himalayan balsam in the no-man’s land next door. I can’t physically get in there to pull it up, as I do in my own garden, but on one dry, windless day around mid-June , one hit with a sprayer with a long lance gets over the fence and close enough to hit the plants I need to kill and little else (indeed as the else is generally brambles and the like, glyphosate is ineffective on the else anyway). Glyphosate can also be useful to kill off something like bindweed when I can’t get at the roots to dig it out from the middle of a bed or border. The key is to use it, and any chemical, in moderation. I also buy the “pure” glyphosate as a concentrate which I water down rather than products like Roundup which have additional chemicals added to the mix.

The lily beetles here peak twice each year. From as early as January, I’ll “pick and squish” any that I find lounging on anything from a broken garden bench to strawberries. But as a couple of hundred lilies emerge, finding the beetles is more of a task than the after-dark slug and snail hunts (bucket of salt water does the trick, quick plop and fizz; why should I waste beer on them?). But there always comes a time when I just can’t keep up. Then out comes the Provado. I use this because it’s systemic. One application late in the evening will be soaked into the plants before the bees wake up the next day and then it only affects insects which nibble the plants – beetles and their babies. This breaks the cycle and I can go back to pick and squish until the second “high”, usually in early August, when a second dose of Provado sees me through the year.

Now some will say that the pesticide gets into the pollen and thus will affect bees. Without wishing to be smug, that’s not a problem for me. This is because, with or without Provado, there will be no pollen for the bees to take. Lily pollen is potentially lethal to cats and I now remove the anthers as soon as the flowers open. I’ve been removing the anthers for longer than I’ve been using Provado.

So whilst I use chemicals, I try to use them wisely and minimally. Neither is used in quantity.

I respect Monty’s decision to be totally organic in his own garden but it seems he won’t respect my decision to be a bit different. Gardeners’ World is supposed to be a factual programme so should be factually correct. Monty might say “This is how I do it,” but to say “This is the only way” is something else altogether. IT IS A LIE!

Sales figures for all sorts of chemicals indicate that Monty is in a minority. Rather than pretending they do not exist, would it not be far better if Monty applied his intellect to educating people about the minimal, appropriate and careful, use of chemicals? What about explaining why products like Provado should be used in the evening when beneficial insects are not flying. I’ve come across so many people who do not appreciate that a bee landing on wet insecticide will be killed along with the lily beetle. Then what about educating people about the consequences of using sprays on fruit trees and bushes; explaining how use at the wrong time can be harmful to humans.

You cannot educate others about something whose existence you refuse even to acknowledge. For that reason, Monty fails. Someone who allows their personal bias to overcome fact has no place presenting a factual programme. If he cannot present without lying then honour dictates that he should go back to jewellery.

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