Sunday, 9 May 2010

Smug ignorance on Gardeners' World

For anyone who doesn't know, Gardeners' World is a programme on BBC television. It has run for forty-two years and until last year was predominantly concerned with demonstrating gardening techniques for the benefit of new gardeners and forgetful old gardeners. In 2008 the main presenter, Monty Don suffered a stroke and left the programme, when the 2009 series started the new presenter was a chap called Toby Buckland and the rot set in.

Various types of rot can ruin old favourites in the garden. Some are the result of fungal or bacteriological infection for which the gardener is not to blame while other are the consequence of poor planting technique or maintenance. If you plant tulips in a boggy patch you should not be surprised to find the bulbs rotting in the ground before a single sprig of leaf is exposed to the April air. Let the branches of an apple tree rub against each other in the wind and canker is likely to develop. Leave too long a stem when pruning a rose above a bud and it can rot back to infect healthy wood. Most infections contracted by otherwise healthy plants from air-borne invaders can be treated if spotted early enough. No sensible gardener imports infected compost deliberately or plants an acid-intolerant plant into acidic soil. To do so would be to negate the very purpose of his garden.

When the man Buckland took over Gardeners' World an editorial decision appeared to have been taken to turn the show into a branch of the so-called "green" movement. Instead of demonstrating lawn maintenance and how to take basal cuttings there were lectures on the need to save water to save the planet and to provide wildlife habitats to protect against the ravages of "climate change". Needless to say it was a dismal failure. Viewing figures plummeted. This year they have returned to the hoe and the potting shed and, as far as I can recall, neither "global warming" nor "climate change" has been mentioned once in the first nine episodes.

You can take idiocy out of editorial policy but you can't remove it from an idiot. Let me take you back fifteen years and more to illustrate what I mean. The main presenter was a magnificent fellow called Geoff Hamilton. He did not believe in using factory produced chemicals in the garden because, he said, there was no need. Dung and garden compost provide everything the soil needs to sustain healthy plants and they are what would maintain those plants in their natural habitat. Why spend money on little pellets in a plastic tub when you can get the same results for less by making your own compost and leafmould free of charge with the occasional 50p spent on a bag of used horse food?

He knew most viewers needed to watch the pennies so he demonstrated how to make your own cold frames from cheap off-cuts and effective cloches from empty cola bottles. It was recycling with an eye on saving money and had absolutely nothing to do with the ludicrous delusion that re-using small amounts of otherwise waste materials could have any effect on the planet as a whole. Most, if not all, of the money-saving tips he gave were things gardeners had been doing for generations. He brought them to a wider audience so that others could save money on their hobby.

This week's show came from the Malvern Spring Show, one of a number of large events organised by the Royal Horticultural Society. A feature of such events is that people build gardens on a theme in the grounds of the venue and can be awarded medals if those gardens are considered good enough. One of the gold medal winners was a garden featuring lots of recycled materials including hand-made clay tiles to form a path and an old chicken coop.

Back in Geoff Hamilton's day (he presented the show from 1979 until his death in 1996) he showed how to make garden paths from a wide variety of waste materials including tiles and bricks. He also showed how to re-use wood from one structure to make a different structure and how to deal with the effects of wear-and-tear on a wooden structure without replacing the whole thing.

The idiot Buckland praised the recyling of clay tiles and the use of an old chicken coop rather than a new one as "bang up to date". This is so typical of the smug ignorance of the Greenies. People have been doing it almost since human life began. They did it because materials were in short supply and, in more modern times, cost money. Go to any allotments and you will find that when Fred decides to build a new shed his old one is not thrown away any more than his grandfather's was thrown away. Someone else on the site will ask if he can have it, or a number will take different bits until the whole is reused just as a dead blackbird is shared by pigeons and rats. It's nothing to do with saving the planet and everything to do with saving a few quid. And by no stretch of the imagination is it "bang up to date", it is an ancient ritual.


Leg-iron said...

My garden makes use of two large glass open-ended cylinders which this year are around a new gooseberry and a blackcurrant bush.

They were scrap parts from old laboratory fermentation equipment. I've had them for about 15 years. They keep cold wind and frost at bay.

I have a double-glazed cold frame using a kitchen window that was going to the dump. Another made from the glass panel of an overbath shower. They look odd but they work.

As you say, nothing to do with saving the planet and everything to do with saving money.

The Greens always miss the point. They bleat on about taxing us more but if they were to point out that recycling could save us all money, we'd all perk up.

Green by name, green by nature, I suppose.

Barnacle Bill said...

Another classic opinion Mr. FB - Thank You.

delcatto said...

Spot on as always FB. I use glass shelves from the fridge, old bits of wood and cut down plastic bottles. The composter produced lots of wonderful stuff last year and is now slowly filling up again. Recycling is cheap as is word of mouth and sharing tips.

delcatto said...

Maybe I will start to watch Gardener's World again...

Jim said...

As a farmer, usually much maligned by the Greenies, I'd like to point out that the farming community are some of the most ingenious recyclers that you could find. Pretty much every farm will have buildings built from old telegraph poles, re-used tin sheeting, farm tracks made from old crushed bricks and concrete, machinery mended many times, or made from scratch by the farmer from other bits and pieces. There is even a magazine called Practical Farm Ideas which showcases the skills and ingenuity of farmers in saving themselves money by make-do and mending. And do we get any credit for all this eco-friendliness? No we just get nasty articles about how we are destroying the environment written by journalists in the Guardian, who have a new car every year and fly off to Tuscany on holiday at the drop of a hat.

Environmentalism, thy name is hypocrisy.

TheFatBigot said...

Thank you all for your contributions. It's lovely to hear from you again Mr Delcatto and even more lovely to welcome Mr Jim to my little oasis of sanity.

Mark Wadsworth said...


That was your first gardening-related post AFAICR, and you certainly seem to know your stuff (or did you just Google a list of types of rot?).

I can't say I know or care much about gardens, apart from they are nice places to sit when the sun is shining, but apart from that, completely agreed.

TheFatBigot said...

I like my gardening Mr W, haven't done as much since the old ticker went bang but still enjoy a good potter.