The East London Garden Society

The Voice ‐ March 2018

Comment by Geoff

Geoff Juden

We must always be made aware of invasive species altering the equilibrium and the consequences that may occur.

This, of course, is not only for the plant world. I make this point because there are regulations concerning certain plants from other regions, such as the Eucalyptus tree. If invasive species are desired, they take a great deal of care and attention, far more so than out indigenous species. So, beware.

The Best Pesticide

Crop land does not exist in a bubble, which means some of the pesticides sprayed onto the land end up contaminating neighbouring fields, soil, water and air. Even in the case of systemic pesticides, which are taken up into the plant as a whole via pesticide‐treated seeds, about 95% of the substances do not end up in the plant cells where it was intended but blown off as dust or permeating the soil and water.

Glyphosate‐resistant super weeds like pigweed are now driving farmers to seek out dicamba‐resistant crops. But dicamba‐resistant weeds have already sprouted in the USA, raising serious doubts that piling more pesticides on crops will help farmers or the environment in the long run. The ultimate solution is not to fight against nature with the use of harmful chemicals, but to work with it, and even learn from it.

Wildflowers are the best pesticide since they embrace the natural tools already in existence to keep pests in check.

  • Wildflowers are home to many beneficial insects, including lacewings, ladybugs, hover flies and parasitic wasps, the latter two of which are natural predators to common crop pests like cereal leaf beetles and aphids.
  • Fields planted with strips of wildflowers had 40% to 53% lower beetle density and 61% less beetle damage compared to the control fields.
  • Research revealed that the frequency of pollinator visits was 25% higher for crops with adjacent flower strips compared to those without.
  • Wildflowers reduce pests and increase pollinators, which is in stark contrast to the increasing use of pesticides that are furthering the emergence of superweeds and insects whilst decimating beneficial pollinators.

However, the new in‐field stripes make it easier for the beneficial insects to move about the fields and reach all the way to the centre. Wildflower stripes also go beyond another method of natural pest control known as beetle banks, in which raised tussock strips are planted with other grasses to attract ground beetles.

In‐field wild flower strips move beyond beetle banks in many important ways. Perhaps the most important is that their focus is on supporting diverse communities of predatory and parasitic insects that kill pests. Research increasingly suggests that complex communities of predators and parasitoids are the most effective at controlling pests.

One study involved eighteen years of UK wild bee distribution data for sixty‐two species, which were compared to amounts of neonicotinoid use in oilseed rape, a crop grown to produce canola oil. The researchers found evidence of increased wild bee population extinction rates in response to systemic pesticide (neonicotinoid) seed treatment.

In a report published in the journal Science, Boyd and colleague Alice Milner of Royal Holloway University London called for "pesticidovigilance" and wrote:
“The current assumption underlying pesticide regulation that chemicals that pass a battery of tests in the laboratory or in field trials are environmentally benign when they are used at industrial scales, is false.

Throughout spring and summer, mixtures of neonicotinoids are found in the pollen and nectar of wildflowers growing in arable field margins, at concentrations that are sometimes even higher than those found in the crop. The large majority (97%) of neonicotinoids brought back in pollen to honey bee hives in arable landscapes was from wildflowers and not crops.”

This means that plans to add wildflowers to conventional crop fields could potentially backfire and end up exposing pollinators to increased levels of pesticides, unless efforts are made to slash pesticide usage at the same time.

Swap toxic pesticide and lawn chemicals for organic weed and pest control alternatives or better still, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant a wildflower meadow or edible organic garden. Back to top

The Greek Myth

We get the word Narcissus from Greek mythology.

A nymph called Echo fell in love with a young Greek named Narcissus, but Narcissus told her to leave him alone. Heartbroken, she lived alone until nothing but an echo of her remained.

Nemesis, the God of revenge, heard the story and lured Narcissus to a pool. Narcissus, who was very handsome and quite taken with himself, saw his reflection in the pool and, as he leaned over to see better, fell in and drowned. He turned into the Daffodill flower! Back to top

Bethnal Green Gardens

The arguments rumble on, so please help save Bethnal Green Gardens by signing this Petition.

See here for more information. Back to top

Coffee Grounds

Many of us will have dumped the cold remains of a forgotten coffee in a plant pot at some point, and then perhaps wondered if it was the wrong thing to do. But it turns out that coffee grounds contain a good amount of the essential nutrient nitrogen as well as some potassium and phosphorus, plus other micronutrients. The quantity and proportions of these nutrients varies, but coffee grounds can be used as a slow‐release fertilizer.

To use coffee grounds as a fertilizer, sprinkle them thinly onto your soil or add them to your compost heap. Despite their colour, for the purposes of composting they’re a ‘green’, or nitrogen‐rich organic material. Make sure to balance them with enough ‘browns’ (carbon‐rich materials such as dried leaves, woody pruning material or newspaper). Your compost heap's tiny gnawers will process and mix them effectively, so using coffee grounds in this way is widely accepted to be safe and beneficial.

Many vermicomposters say that their worms love coffee grounds, so small quantities could also regularly be added to a worm bin if you have one. Paper coffee filters can go in too.

Coffee grounds are free organic matter, whether a by‐product of your at‐home daily brew or collected from coffee shops that are only too glad to give them away for nothing. If used with care and common sense, they are a worthwhile addition to a compost heap and soil. Back to top

Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Cauliflower Soup


  • 1 medium-sized cauliflower
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Fennel seeds
  • Fresh parsley
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 pot of crème fraiche
  • 1 small pot of horseradish sauce
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Grated courgette
  • Olive oil

Method: Remove the stalk from the cauliflower and slice it into small pieces. Slice the garlic into half, peel and slice the onions. (If you prefer to use roasted garlic, slice garlic heads, drizzle over some oil and roast in a pre-heated oven.) Pour a little olive oil into a pan, add the onions and garlic, place over a gentle heat and leave to cook until tender. Every so often, stir with a spoon and add a little oil if they are sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Sprinkle over the fennel seeds and add in the cauliflower. Pour in water so it covers the cauliflower. Add the bay leaves with a few strands of fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper. Leave to cook gently until the cauliflower is tender.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool before blending with a blender. Remove the bay leaves, taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

To serve, pour soup into bowls and add a little crème fraiche and horseradish. Add some grated courgette and finish off with some sunflower seeds. Back to top



Previous issues of The Voice