THIS is an area where good green intentions founder. If everything is left to itself, the organic theory goes, clever Mother Nature will solve all. For every few hundred aphids there will be a hungry ladybird larva, birds and spiders will do their bit too, and, while plants will be nibbled a bit, they will never be stripped to the bone. This is fine and dandy if one happens to live on a large estate where there is room and isolation for an eco-system to develop. But it is rather less effective in a town garden where the neighbours may not share green enthusiasm. If your neighbours are gaily spraying away and you are not, then every hungry many-legged creature for streets around will make a bee-line (as it were) for your little plot, which will soon look as if locusts have been in for a snack.

Doing nothing becomes less and less attractive as juicy new buds disappear under a living green coat of aphids, and the snails and slugs become so fat they can't climb the garden walls without falling off. The second line of defence recommended for the green gardener when it comes to things with legs is a sprayer full of soapy water. Ho, ho. Unless one is prepared to spray approximately every ten minutes, with industrial amounts of Fairy Liquid, soapy water is about as useful as a paper umbrella. On the weekly basis that is the most that anyone who has a job/children/life can manage, the best that can be said is that those pesky pests will be extremely clean, though not noticeably less frisky. The organic way of dealing with slugs and snails is a beer trap; a sunken container full of (cheap) bitter or lager, which is supposed to be irresistible to all things slimy. They fall in and drown (happily, in theory). But however many pints of putrefying slug goo mixed with beer (a truly disgusting combination) are disposed of, a significant proportion of the munching molluscs always seem to be smugly teetotal.

The most likely eventual outcome, once several prize specimens have been reduced to pathetic, ragged skeletons, is complete crack-up and the purchase of a large Bug Gun spray, plus a hundredweight or so of slug pellets. Prowling the garden with a Bug Gun, spreading clouds of noxious poison, feels just like being an extra in a low-budget war movie; snarling "Die! Die! You motherf*****s!" is optional.