(Beyond Pesticides, October 5, 2007) Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, has long been a proponent of organic gardening and sustainability. In his new book, entitled Elements of Organic Gardening, the Prince of Wales illustrates how he maintains 15 acres of immaculate ornamental and vegetable gardens on his Gloucestershire estate, Highgrove. An organic gardener for the past 26 years, the Prince’s image has changed from a man who talks to his plants to organic spokesperson. “I think some people of the older generation saw him and organic gardening as mildly eccentric,” said co-author Stephanie Donaldson. “But I think it is like all prophets who have a bit of a problem to start with. People are starting to see that things he was saying 15 to 20 years ago are now being said by government scientists. Suddenly his time has come and people are starting to think that maybe he is right after all.”Highgrove’s head groundskeeper, David Howard, maintains the estate with organic, and often “old-fashioned”, tools. There is a team of draft horses to mow and rake the hay field, rather than a tractor. Slugs and other plant pests are kept in check by natural predators like hedgehogs birds. Beds are fertilized with compost and manure. “I challenge you to find any pesticides on the estate,” said Howard. “I don’t have a pesticides cupboard.” At the property’s entrance is a sign reading “This is a GMO-free zone.”
As for lawns, the Prince objects to the term; they are “green spaces which are mown regularly.” They are not weeded, aerated, watered, or fertilized. Instead, flowers, moss, and “weeds” are tolerated rather than causing concern. According to Donaldson, the organic approach was “to do with collaborating with nature rather than trying to vanquish it.”
Donaldson sees the Prince’s advocacy of organic gardening as the beginning of a larger trend. “I think any gardener aged under 40 these days will be generally organic. They are cutting down on the use of pesticides and fungicides because they have found that creating a balance in the garden is better,” she said. “They younger generation is far more aware of climate change and how it impacts all of us and they are worried about their future. They want to know what they are feeding their children.”
While Prince Charles’s book is available in the United States, there is a two-year waiting list for the public to view Highgrove estate. To join the waiting list, write to the Clarence House Press Office, London SW1A 1BA, England.