Gardening: healthy for people, bad for bees?

GARDENING REVIEW FOR THE WEEK OF 13 SEPT 2013

Gardening is a wonderful hobby, one with many health benefits for people – but are gardeners doing terrible damage to the UK bee population?

The Environmental Audit Committee seems to think so, especially when it comes to using pesticides such as neonicotinoids when it comes to private gardening. In fact, the committee would rather see no amateur gardeners use the pesticide at all and have even gone so far as to call for an outright ban on using the substance.

The problem is that apparently the damage done to bees is quite dire. The helpful little insects that go about pollinating plants and flowers and then industriously produce honey are suffering, the committee says, and declining bee populations could have a very bad effect on plant life in general.

Despite the dire prognostications the committee makes, I don’t think it’s nearly as big a problem as it thinks. For what it’s worth, gardeners in Bristol know better than to use a pesticide that could hurt the UK bee population – most horticulturists worth their salt know that you need to balance the ecosystem very carefully to avoid disasters like the committee thinks is happening.

Besides, the benefits of community gardens are so great that honestly it would be a shame to disrupt their operation. One such garden in Swindon is doing brilliant things for its community, especially for local residents who suffer from mental health issues.

Therapeutic Work in Gardening Swindon (TWIGS) has been providing relief for local residents since its inception in 1997, what with the community activities that it offers. There’s nothing more soothing that getting your hands dirty and tending a beautiful garden if you ask me, and TWIGS is proof positive that the concept is sound.

Around 90 residents with mental health problems are currently being helped by exposure to any one of the nine gardens that TWIGS curates. It’s an absolutely brilliant programme if you ask me, and I’m gratified to know that not only are people growing beautiful flowers and other plants but that they’er also fostering calm and peace of mind in those that can sometimes need it so desperately.

We need more wonderful initiatives like TWIGS if you ask me, and I’m all for increasing the number of similar programmes throughout the UK, both here in Bristol and beyond. I know I’d be more than willing to volunteer my time to help out if such a community garden was launched in my neighbourhood!