By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe Practical authors and gardeners living in Spain for 25 years.
In recent weeks we have been able to eat and grate citrus fruits that have never been coated with chemical sprays and eat ripe apricots and peaches using with juice and taste that could never have been picked and transported to a store without splitting, and raspberries and redcurrants that were partly eaten as harvested for dinner – these latter having also only been sprayed once with a natural spray and no fruit was lost.
Two issues arise. With fruit easy to grow whether you live on the coastal plain or in the inland hills why buy unripe fruit that needs to be peeled because of residual chemical insecticide and fungicide spays used in the orchards as well in storage warehouses and packing stations when you can pick and eat perfectly ripe fruit directly from your own trees and bushes and plants without peeling or washing them if you only use natural products.
More and more gardeners are searching out natural and ecological insecticide and fungicide sprays to use in their gardens to ensure that they are safer for the family, neighbours, pets and beneficial wildlife.
The seven main benefits are as follows.
1. The garage and garden shed stops smelling like a chemical store.
2. There is no hazard to others from putting empty plastic bottles in the waste containers.
3. One does not need to hesitate before eating edible flowers, fruit, herbs and vegetables direct from the plant or trees for a snack while gardening or using in the kitchen without washing for five minutes, peeling them or throwing away the outer leaves.
4. Fresh fruit and vegetables can be juiced without contamination of the juices by chemicals.
5. One does not have to throw away the beneficial vitamins contained in the skins and peel of many fruits and vegetables.
6. It is safe for neighbours and passers by when you spray your trees.
7. Reduced health risks for the family especially the younger and older members. Articles on the internet have quote that the main health hazards from agricultural chemicals are cancers, nervous disorders, dizziness, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and various allergies made worse by agricultural workers not always using the correct strengths or protective clothing.
You may well react that chemicals are still used in commercial agriculture and fruit and vegetables are tested before sale. Luckily the latter is correct and year by year the more hazardous chemicals are being banned for sale within the European Community but nothing stops a grower from using up old stocks first and the limits established for contamination applies to each individual product and not to the cumulative amount. You may therefore have three chemicals at a safe limit of 70% of the maximum but no one knows the impact of the combination of the cocktail.
Moreover the instructions on the bottle of chemical garden products informs you of the recommended dilutions so that it is safe for you to use wearing the recommended gloves clothing and mask – in some cases a space suit will be recommended for fruit growers – but there is no information regarding the volume of liquid to spray on each tree and sometimes nothing about the latest time that you should spray before eating the crop. But instructions are guidelines. It is not unusual for more to be used for assumed faster results and labels get eaten away by chemical drips so memories have to be relied on.
DDT once cleared the Spanish coastline of mosquitoes and was heavily used in agriculture and private gardens.
worldwide to prevent insect damage on fruit and vegetables. Indeed in 1958 Dick found himself having to design a plant to produce 500 tons a year of DDT as his final year project for a Chemical Engineering degree at UCL as world demand was rising fast. Eventually heath concerns led to it’s being banned in the USA and Europe in the 1970’s and shortly after elsewhere. But only a couple of years ago traces were still found in estuary sands down stream from an agricultural area in Spain.
Luckily public concern about the use of DDT and other hazardous chemicals in developed countries led to the development of the organic, ecological and wholesome food production programmes which banned the use of most chemical products. But of course although Spain is now a major producer of organic vegetables most is exported and Spain imports an increasing amount of fruit and vegetables from countries which may have less restrictions on the use of chemicals than Europe.
However the amateur gardener wishing to grow his or her home grown ecological produce can easily do so.
By growing a diversity of vegetables rather than a mono crop insect and fungal problems will be less in the first place and when they occur solutions are readily available – often from plants growing in the garden.
Eco products first developed for the commercial growers of organic fruit and vegetables in Spain are now available in small retail packs. For starters watch out for the Trabe, Neudorff , Seipasa, Compo, Floraguard trade names for starters. Each have very informative web sites.
Clodagh and Dick’s Gardening Books