Wells Voice Article July 2021

Our gardens are lush, exuberant and open to visitors. Everybody is welcome to come along and make appreciative noises and murmur admiration at our handiwork regardless of the fact that Nature has done most of it. But not all visitors are welcome, for this is the season when those nibblers and gnashers, suckers and spitters and a host of near invisible creatures do their best to spoil our fun. Pests, admittedly, are an unwanted nuisance and, as someone said, quite a few seem to exist solely to annoy as anybody will testify who has flushed a clutch of earwigs from the turn-ups of his trousers. Even earwigs have a place in the scheme of things and in fact the damage they do is offset by the benefit of their predations; they devour vast numbers of aphids.

Many abhor earwigs and take serious steps to annihilate them. There are or were gardeners who took the same view of the humble earthworm. The earthworm of all creatures! One who shifts and sifts prodigious amounts of soil enriching it with those chemicals we grab off the shelves in garden centres. A creature which, pound for pound, is 1000 times stronger than a human. Creatures whom Aristotle called 'the intestines of the earth'. The folk who took a dislike to worm casts, usually on golf greens, used poisons now happily banned.

It's all a question of balance. We reach for the poison and slosh it about, ignorant of the effects on organisms which are there to cope with the nuisance in the first place. Here's a fact to make the eyes water: in 2017 a survey by the European Food Standards Agency found that grapes from Turkey contained nineteen different pesticides. So, here is a plea to gardeners to redress the balance before we all poison ourselves. The late Christopher Lloyd of Great Dixter wrote: 'Wherever earthworms plough, people thrive. When worms perish, societies collapse.' And if you are plagued by deer, count yourself fortunate that you are so close to the natural world. Some folk don't have access to a window box. As for aphids, if the earwigs and ants don't deal with the black ones try a double-barrelled water pistol. Then console yourself with the belief that squashing the green ones twixt finger and thumb is the quickest way to acquire green fingers. Pip.


Photo : Quilted copy of a mediaeval bench end, All Saints Church, Monksilver