Gardening without chemicals is a good way to ensure that the food and plants you grow are free of pesticides or chemicals, thriving without the extra expense of dangerous products that are harmful to our wildlife. If you’ve used chemicals in the past, this might sound like an invitation to every pest for miles around to shred your garden ... and that might well happen at first. But, with time and patience, you’ll end up with a rewarding, healthier garden for ditching the chemicals.

Spraying to deal with pests can often kill the predators too, or at least make them want to avoid your garden. When you stop using chemicals, aphids are the first creatures to return as they have a short breeding cycle. Their predators may take longer to come back, but stick with it and know it will be better in the long run!

Our top tip for going chemical free is to ensure your garden has as much variety as possible, so that no one species will be able to gain control. The more complex and varied your garden is, the more resilient it becomes.

Suggestions to help you get well on your way to a wildlife-friendly, chemical-free garden:

1. Encourage natural predators

  • Slugs, a notorious pest of vegetable patches, are a favourite food of hedgehogs. Create a hedgehog-friendly garden to attract these prickly favourites.
  • Frogs enjoy hoovering-up aphids, so installing a small pond in your garden may well help you to control these pests, as well as providing a valuable home for amphibians.

2. Try companion planting

  • Nettles can be used to draw in ladybirds earlier in the season to combat aphids
  • Chives, onions and garlic are widely reported to have a repellent effect on many pests. 

3. Use physical barriers

  • Protecting your plants with horticultural fleece or mesh can prevent a range of pests, from invertebrates to birds, from accessing your plants.
  • A popular way of repelling slugs is to use crushed eggshells or coffee grounds scattered around plants.  In dry conditions, this will irritate the slug, and will naturally degrade into the soil with time.

4. Capturing pests

  • Scatter cabbage leaves to distract slugs from your prized plants. Return to the leaves and remove any slugs that have fallen for the bait from your patch.
  • Look out for, and collect, slugs on days when it is damp. Take a torch if it's dark, and don't forget to use a container with a sealable lid, so they can't crawl out while you collect them up.

5. Plant wisely

  • Rotate the location of your plants, to avoid recurring infestations from pests that remain dormant in the soil between seasons. 
  • Time your planting and harvests to work against pests' timetables. For example, sowing carrots later, or harvesting potatoes earlier, means missing the most active times for some of their most notorious pests.

Find out more about taking Action For Insects and other actions you can take for wildlife here.