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Welsh TV gardener calls on people of Wales to reduce pesticide use to protect water and wildlife

Naomi Saunders

A Welsh TV gardening personality is urging people across Wales to reduce their reliance on pesticides to help protect the environment and minimise their impact on Welsh waters.

Naomi Saunders, a presenter on S4C’s popular gardening slot, Garddio a Mwy, is calling on the Welsh public to take more of a natural approach to gardening and swap weedkillers and insecticides for more eco-friendly alternatives.

The self-confessed ‘crazy plant lady’, who is an advocate for using natural pest control methods, has teamed up with Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water on its PestSmart campaign to encourage fellow green-fingered enthusiasts to make simple changes to their gardening habits in a bid to prevent pesticides from entering Welsh rivers and streams.

The PestSmart campaign urges people to take a more conscious approach to gardening by using natural approaches to tackling weeds and pests in the garden that don’t rely on weedkillers, slug pellets and other forms of pesticides.

Natural approaches to pest control include companion planting, where specific plants are placed next to each other to help their growth by either deterring pests, attracting pollinators and beneficial insects like lacewings and ladybirds that prey on aphids, or by acting as a sacrificial plant so insects don’t eat the ‘important’ one.

Strongly scented companion plants like dill, lavender, mint, marigolds and thyme can confuse or repel pests, while others like chamomile and garlic have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that help to protect crops and flowers.

Other alternatives to pesticides include growing wildflower areas to encourage natural pest predators like birds and hedgehogs into your garden, as well as making homemade solutions using kitchen ingredients, such as vinegar sprays which combat weeds.

The call out to gardeners across Wales comes as Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s routine raw water monitoring programme has detected increasing traces of pesticides in areas they have never seen them before. While the levels are too low to pose a risk to those drinking the water, they’re enough to breach rigorous drinking water standards.

With gardening season ramping up again after a very wet start to the year, Naomi is now hoping to inspire more people to go outdoors and be more mindful of their actions. The PestSmart ambassador said: “People have easy access to pesticides and herbicides, given they are readily available in garden centres, supermarkets and online, but the reality is many don’t realise the impact that these products can have on the environment.

“When used incorrectly, pesticides can have a very negative effect on nature, and they can easily make their way into water sources if you’re not careful.

“I’m really passionate about only using eco-friendly and pesticide-free methods of gardening – it’s something that’s really important to me which is why I’m working with PestSmart. I personally avoid using pesticides as there are plenty of simple, natural and effective alternatives to tackle weeds, pests and plant diseases that don’t impact wildlife or pollute our water system.

“It can be a bit overwhelming knowing where to start with a more natural and sustainable approach to gardening, so I try to share tips and tricks on my socials. The PestSmart website is also a great starting point for anyone looking for useful advice and recommendations.”

Dr Phillippa Pearson,  Head of Water Services Science at Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water said: “We know that pesticides can form an everyday product for many people, providing an easy method for pest control. However, it’s really important that more people know that if stored, used or disposed of incorrectly, they can be harmful to people, water and wildlife.

“Our goal is to help people become more aware about how pesticide use can have a negative impact so that we can help safeguard and improve raw water quality before it gets to our water treatment works, avoiding the need for additional chemicals and energy to get drinking water perfect.

“By making straightforward and eco-friendly swaps in the garden, we can all play a part in reducing our reliance on pesticides to keep bills low while protecting the environment for generations to come.”