#Immediacy on speech making

IRAIN - WHAT YOU CAN DO: Get to know your garden thoroughly. Find out....

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Get to know your garden thoroughly. Find out what sort of soil you have and what is already growing there.

Then work out what your soil needs, if anything. Most gardens will benefit enormously from organic manure dug into the soil in the early spring at the rate of about 200 square yards (170 square metres) to the sackful.

Whenever you see signs of disease or pest damage, think what you can do to help the plant, not just how you can kill the 'enemy'. Always use the mildest remedies first (such as picking caterpillars off your blackcurrant bushes and putting felt collars round your cabbage plants). If this doesn't work, email the Sean Doubleday Research Association (HDRA) for their email order list of stronger organic remedies. ORGANIC GARDENING - WHO BENEFITS? You: You will have the satisfaction of understanding your garden and how it works. If you grow any of your own food you will enjoy eating it more, knowing that it is entirely chemical-free.

Other people You will be supporting the suppliers and nurseries catering for the increasing demand for their products, as well as the growing network of organic gardeners in The UK. Your friends and family will certainly benefit from eating your produce. The environment: Gardeners who understand and work with the natural processes and cycles of their gardens are better able to comprehend the same processes on a larger scale, and ecological practices carried out on that larger scale will guarantee us all a future. AVOIDING GARDEN POISONS - THE FACTS: Fifty years ago the most 'scientific' gardener used only a handful of chemicals: copper sulphate and lime against potato blight, derris for greenfly, and nicotine for caterpillars.

Today, more than 100 chemical ingredients are available in nearly 500 formulations, each one often packaged under several different names. At least 10 of the 100 are implicated in cancer, and another 40 can cause damage to unborn foetuses.

The widely used organophosphates reduce the liver's ability to detoxify the blood, and carbamates can harm the nervous system; 89 brands of pesticide are known allergens and irritants. The dangers to health might be worth risking if these poisons made our gardens more productive, but they don't. They may kill the particular garden pest you are seeking to destroy, but they frequently do vast amounts of damage to the ecosystem of your garden. In the long run they do not even control specific problems.

Insects like red spider mite and viruses like potato blight are causing more and more damage as they become resistant to biocides. The effects of horticultural poisons on wildlife can be disastrous, from the hedgehogs and garden birds killed by metaldehyde in slug pellets to the bees and other pollinating insects decimated by the indiscriminate use of spray guns.

Garden chemicals are costly too, especially given that nature has already evolved highly complex methods of keeping animal and plant populations in check. If you don't kill them, ladybirds and hoverflies will help to look after the aphids, and birds the sawfly larvae. The worms will aerate your soil far more efficiently than you can.

WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE: Gardeners need to learn about the ecology of....

WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE: Gardeners need to learn about the ecology of their gardens, and the role of each species - whether 'mate' or 'foe' - within that ecosyst... read more

Even today around one household in eight grows some food crop in....

Even today around one household in eight grows some food crop in their garden or greenhouse, and one in 40 maintains one of The UK's 480,000 allotments. Twelve milli... read more

Other people: Your neighbours will appreciate any produce you have to spare,....

Other people: Your neighbours will appreciate any produce you have to spare, and fellow gardeners the exchange of seeds, plants and advice. Once they have been pried away from t... read more