While visiting a garden centre recently, I was astonished at the contradictions contained in much of what was on offer.
All around me were shelves laden with sprays and powders for killing virtually everything that moves, both above and below ground.
There was also a large section selling bird feeders, nesting boxes and a variety of seed mixes supposed to keep your grounds full of songbirds. You could even buy those little ornamental collections of bamboo tubes to hang in the garden to provide a habitat for single bees and other insects.
I just couldn't get the point of killing all the insects which birds feed on naturally and then offering the now hungry birds some exotic food imported from every corner of the globe.
There were lurid-looking sprays on sale for killing caterpillars, slugs and snails, ants, wasps, woodlice, vine weevil and one called a flying and crawling insect killer that dealt with pretty much everything. But, despite what the pesticide-manufacturing companies would have us believe, all insects are not our enemies and most work for our benefit.
Some fungicides and other killer sprays were specifically designed for roses and apple trees but why not grow those varieties that don't require endless spraying?
There are plenty available and they are far easier to establish and maintain.
Most people are, by now, probably brainwashed into gardening by chemical attack and automatically reach for the spray can whenever they see aphids on their roses or broad beans -- but there is a better and simpler way.
Now, I know this sounds smug, but I have not had a problem with aphids for years, since I set out to ensure that my garden was a genuinely friendly place for wildlife to live in. The blue tits and sparrows, along with many others, are highly efficient at dealing with aphids and add life and a further splash of colour to the garden in summer.
Not that colour is in short supply, for July is a month of lush abundance with blossom everywhere. Despite the undoubted scarcity of wild honey bees, we have lots of different species of bumble bees to create that soothing hum and buzz. I must stop going on about the overuse of pesticides but they are one of the greatest enemies of the honey bee and should only be used sparingly, if at all.
Right now, we are finishing off the last of the early crop of spuds and having planted the Sarpo Mira variety as a main crop, I won't need to spray them as they are blight resistant.
I covered the outdoor brassicas with netting, which keeps out both the cabbage white butterfly and cabbage root fly, and ensures a decent, caterpillar-free crop. The cauliflowers in the polytunnel bolted for some unknown reason, yet the outdoor ones, while taking a few weeks longer to mature, are forming perfect dense heads.
Cauliflowers are tricky to grow and if anyone knows how to prevent them bolting, please let me know. They were well watered and in fertile ground so their poor performance is a mystery.
Everything else in the polytunnel grew exceptionally well, aided, no doubt, by the fact that it is now laid out with raised beds that are easier to manage and access. The same beds were constructed with second-hand scaffolding planks, an unwanted commodity that are cheap to buy now that the building trade is in deep recession.
Another bonus the birds brought us is a huge crop of raspberries on bushes which have popped up in the most unusual places, sown by the same birds which fed on the original planting. For some odd reason, these semi-self sown bushes produce far more fruit than their parent crop in its neat and carefully tended row.
Undoubtedly, the main reason we have so many different bird species is the dense planting of trees and shrubs around and throughout the grounds. Small birds only feel secure when cover is close by and will happily adopt your garden if you plant with them in mind.
Late July is a time for wandering on warm evenings, grazing on raspberries and strawberries and those sweet baby peas, best eaten before they reach maturity.
These are the rewards for the hours of digging and planting, as are the crisp, fresh salads with a freshness unequalled by any supermarket product. Living in harmony with the natural world is not difficult and just requires a little consideration. The benefits are many.