Seabrook On ... Bad advice leaves gardeners exposed

Gardens are looking pretty good with ornamental crab apples and cherries in full bloom. Gardeners have made an early start through the remarkably fine March weather and lawns are green after April showers. All set then for a great gardening year.

My only concern is the apparent lack of a loud voice to speak up for traditional gardening and hands-on gardeners. When more people are likely to holiday at home and spend time in the garden, where is the help to give them assured success?

When it comes to water, all the emphasis in the press is on hosepipe bans and no mention of the excellent work by the HTA and others in negotiating the plant-life-saving exemptions that allow automatic trickle irrigation to be used. Water butts are recommended, but I have seen no mention of water butt pumps such as Hozelock's that allow easy movement of water from one butt to another and to supply trickle irrigation lines.

Raised beds are all the rage for fashionable grow your own, which is all very well except that surely they will dry out faster than growing on the flat. On television, we see the construction of raised beds and never the cultivation of the base first to encourage deep rooting and drought resistance.

Gardening columnists recommend drought-resistant subtropical plantings, when last winter and -15 degsC temperatures proved the folly of this advice. One broadsheet gardening column recently suggested doing away with the lawn and using gravel instead. But lawns make the character of British gardens and over the years they have survived droughts well enough. Increasing our carbon footprint by digging, washing and hauling gravel makes no sense to me.

When it comes to raising plants from seed, too often demonstrations are slapdash and the result is weak seedlings to which the experienced gardener would not give house room. Who today is going to show homeowners how to use a hoe? At an inner-city school recently, the teacher responsible for gardening asked me: "What is a hoe and what is it used for?" Teaching people to garden properly is in all our interests.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster.


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