Seabrook on ... Better gardening tuition for children

Fifteen years ago, Colegrave Seeds, the Garden Centre Association (GCA), Miracle-Gro and the BBC Gardeners' World Live show kicked-off the primary schools initiative with their Junior Petunia and Accent Impatiens competitions.

Even earlier, some GCA members had arranged sandpit treasure hunts for children during weekends at their centres.

More recently, a number of school gardening campaigns have been introduced - the most successful being the Potato Council's Potato Growing Competition, and Morrisons' Let's Grow voucher scheme.

The RHS has an active website for school garden clubs and is recruiting staff to back up its campaign. Having visited a number of schools and witnessed the enthusiasm scholars show for growing their own, all this activity is to be commended.

It must now be time to bring all these together under one umbrella organisation. There is no sense in, for example, the RHS and Potato Council going their own ways. Surely all four of the RHS gardens should have demonstration Potato Council pots growing potatoes?

Webcam coverage would allow schools across Britain to compare growth on their pots with the nearest RHS demo pot. Week-by-week advice could also be provided to improve the results youngsters achieve. I hear that both Scott's and Westland are sponsoring school and community gardening activities for the coming season.

Each of these schemes requires costly administration and, from my experience, it is not web messages but hands-on demos, lessons and visits that are needed to get pupils growing successfully. Many of the schools receiving equipment from Morrisons are starting up garden clubs for the first time.

I find the lack of gardening knowledge and experience to back up this worthwhile movement frightening. A child's tutor asked me earlier this year what a hoe was for and how to use it. We need to work together to provide better tuition for the next generation.

- Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster.


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