Archive for January, 2015

Why are TV garden experts all alike?

It seems to me there are three main types of Gardening presenter. White middle aged men like Monty Don, Alan Tichmarsh & Joe Swift; white middle aged women like Carol Klein, Anne Swithenbank & Sarah Raven; and ones with long flowing locks and mystic names and who look like Elves from Lord of the Rings like Rachel de Thame, Alys Flowers and Bob Flowerdew.

Elves from Lord of the Rings

Garden Elves Alys, Rachel & Bob

Here’s a handy Venn diagram about gardening presenters.


Obviously this is an issue with diversity in television, not gardening. Black people do garden, in fact I once know an elderly gentleman who could revive the most withered seedling, but he didn’t realise that he’s not supposed to be racist either and so he called his homemade plant feed ‘jungle juice’ and made lurid references to the supposed virility of black men. Lovely fella, but perhaps not the next Percy Thrower. Still, surely there could be a little bit more diversity? I wouldn’t make a fuss, but as soon as you notice weird absence of entire sections of the community, you can’t stop thinking about it.

However, I’m pleased to say the Big Allotment challenge has an African (I actually have no idea where she is from but she grew up in Zambia) AND a Malaysian in it.

jojo rekha

Thank you Rekha and Jo Jo for making me feel a little bit less uncomfortable.


Sowing the seeds of compromise

seed trays

First seeds of the year

A lot of the time gardening for me is a battle between, what I should do and what I am actually going to do. This series of compromises begins straight away with seed sowing.

Ideally I know that you should use clean trays, specialised seed compost, vermiculite, and a propagator, and this year, I did at least clean my trays, the rest is frankly not going to happen and here’s why.

Cost – Every time the splendid Carol Klein sprinkles vermiculite over her seed trays all I can hear is the sound of coins raining into garden centre’s tills. It’s nearly £5 for 10l, and Carol’s so heavy handed with the stuff I suspect she must have her own mine round the back of Glebe Cottage. I mean we all love a bit of drainage, but steady love, I’m not made of money, I might as well cover my chilli seeds with a light layer of cash.

To be honest my tight-fistedness extends to special seed compost too. I’ve always used my usual multi-purpose and it’s been adequate. Probably I don’t get as good germination rates, but I don’t need to. I get more plants than I can use with my inferior growing medium and again it simply doesn’t make economic sense to treat seeds (very cheap and high degeneration) as a more precious commodity than the far more expensive specialised composts (pricy and bulky to store lots of different kinds). I know that the best start will lead to stronger plants, but I need to keep the costs within reasonable limits for what is a hobby, not a job.

Space- Heated propagators are never going to happen in my house either. Apart from the expense and the inevitability that I will break them, there’s the fact that I wouldn’t have enough for all the seeds that I grow, leading to a heart-breaking Sophie’s choice every sowing day. Plus we don’t have enough plugs to spare.

‘Sorry kids it’s either TV or dialysis, you can’t have both, my sweet peas need a consistent 17 degrees.’

Time- I have to confess that in previous years I haven’t even got round to cleaning my seed trays properly. I’ve just brushed out the old dried compost. I know this is terrible and leads to all sorts of diseases caused by poor hygiene which not even a back-street slum chemist will be able to help you with. In my defence I’ve had very young children for the past decade, and what sowing I have been able to do has been a hurried operation which I never quite finish or clear up after before I am called away to tend a crying child or adjudicate on a siblings dispute or feed the little sods. I still find weeing on my own a novelty, when would I have found the time to carefully wash out my seed trays? Since 2003 the only things that have got washed in this house are things that are growing a culture, emitting an especially strong odour or are likely to be seen by my mother – basically plates, pants and wine glasses.

Now the kids are old enough to play on their own (their favourite game being ‘stare at a screen’) I finally have the chance to exercise a bit of garden hygiene, but I know the rest of the year will see more compromises. Gardening experts are great for telling us what we should be doing but without their seemingly endless budgets, time and resources I’m pretty sure they know we’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got.