Gardening: Ditch the chemicals and go natural

It’s funny how things change. Or, rather, how our attitudes to things change. Take, for example, antibiotics, which only a few short decades ago were considered magic pills for the mildest of ailments, before scientists discovered that their over-use was leading to increased resistance, as well as to the destruction of important “good” bacteria in the human gut, with significant consequences for long-term human health. Cue the growing popularity of probiotics and homemade products such as kefir (a fermented milk drink) that help re-seed or re-inoculate the human gut with a mixture of beneficial live microorganisms.

But it’s not just humans. Numerous kinds of beneficial bacteria are also present in vast quantities in healthy soil, as part of a diverse community of micro-organisms that play a variety of crucial roles in our gardens.

These include encouraging the breakdown of organic matter, speeding up the process of photosynthesis and inhibiting the spread of plant diseases and soil-borne pathogens. Note that I say healthy soil; very often that complicated and mysterious balance is out of whack as a result of flooding, compaction, pollution, or the regular use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

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