Using chemicals

Chemical use on allotments is effective, albeit potentially harmful. Always use chemicals with care

Only pesticides that are of inherently low risk are approved for use by home gardeners. Further safeguards for the user, bystander and environment are described on the packaging and accompanying label, which is especially important.

The law requires that gardeners follow the instructions on the labels of pesticides exactly - this is essential to get the desired effect. Organic remedies may also cause harm if misused.

Most pesticides are unsuited for use by home gardeners as they require protective clothing, and misuse can have serious consequences to the user, consumers of produce and the environment. They can however be used by professionals who can meet the exacting requirements for use. Although the risk of serious harm from garden chemicals is very low, it cannot be completely avoided and careful use is essential.

Best of all is to avoid using chemicals; other methods should be the first line of defence, and using chemicals is a last resort. Unfortunately for many problems no effective chemical controls are offered. This may sound depressing, but measures such as pest-excluding mesh can produce better results than chemicals. Even the effect of diseases can be lessened by careful watering and crop hygiene. Potatoes and tomatoes are a special case: blight will devastate crops in wet conditions without a fungicide regime.

Using organic matter to enhance soil fertility is more effective than relying solely on fertilisers. In fact, for all but the hungriest plants, fertilisers can often be omitted on soils to which ample organic matter has been added. Organic-based solid fertilisers are generally superior to chemical ones as they release nutrients more slowly. Organic-based potassium fertilisers are few however, and in this case synthetic ones such as sulphate of potash may sometimes be needed.

More on storing and disposing of chemicals

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.