Why are British gardeners such opinionated whingers?

They never stop.  If it’s not the rain, it’s the lack of rain or the slugs or the whiteflies or the greenflies or the ….. it goes on and on and on.  It’s not only the weather and it’s any form of media commentary/advice on gardening.  Take Gardeners World for example when it was in its Greenacres phase the criticism never ended that it was dumbing down and not providing enough for experienced gardeners.  Now the criticism is that incorrect advice is given….. it goes on and on and on.

At the allotment site I have a plot at it is rare to meet any one with a positive attitude.  Last year the first year the site was opened they moaned endlessly about the weeds and stones in the ground.  Really, what were they expecting?  Isn’t that part of gardening to take a piece of land and transform it into some productive or beautiful?  Then it was the lack of rain, then the whitefly on the brassicas.  Whitefly are annoying but they do come off when you wash the crops, it’s not the end of the world and yes you have to spend time watering but at least we have water.  At the risk of sounding like a frustrated parent whose child won’t eat their dinner, think of Africa.  At the start of this year way back in February it was all there’s going to be a drought, the council will turn off the water supply to save money – doom and gloom.  Not how can we water efficiently and effectively – maybe tell people they can only water between certain hours i.e. early morning and evening.  No just moaning.

So what happened? It rained and it’s still raining off and on.  So now we are all complaining about not being able to garden, the increase damage from slugs and snails and the latest potato blight, no doubt soon to be followed by tomato blight.  A bit of a boom year for the whinging gardener.  Now I know I have commented on the rain and how it has affected my gardening mojo but on the plus side it has led me to rediscover some old hobbies and I feel far more content and relaxed about the garden.  As for the potato blight the tubers are still usable even if you can’t store them for long.  I have also had a rubbish garlic crop due to garlic rust and last autumn my leeks were affected by leek moth – so what?  Its part of gardening, working with and trying to understand Mother Nature but human beings seem to have a need to control nature, and to impose their will.  We really should have woken up by  now to the fact that we are only a very small cog in a vast network and we should learn to respect and understand nature rather than bend it to our will.

The whole notion of imposing our will comes into play when you look  gardening media and particularly garden television programmes.  It seems to me that anyone who says in the media that you should prune this plant then, use this compost/fertiliser, water in this way, take cuttings like this or sow this way is really setting themselves up to be hung drawn and quartered.  It is particularly unpleasant in the gardening social media where some individuals are making a name for themselves through their vitriolic criticism.  Is there a right way or a wrong way of doing gardening tasks?  Surely it is more a case of someone passing on what they have found works for them and you can then decide how much of that information you want to use?  I strongly believe that there is an element of our inherited perceived wisdom handed down from the head gardeners of yesteryear to blame.  Various tasks were done religiously at a prescribed time in the gardening year and in a prescribed way.  Why?  There is evidence that in many cases the theories had little substance behind them.  For example the RHS trials have shown that pruning your roses with a hedge trimmer gives you just as good results as doing painstaking careful pruning, counting buds etc.  There is also a case to be made for  some of the annual tasks to be done at certain times of the year purely because  that is when there was time in the calendar.    Now I’m not talking about ‘horticulture’ here I am talking about gardening, the sort we do in our back gardens, not clever grafting or producing masses of plants for sale etc.  You could also ask why if these ‘critics’ hate the programmes so much do they continue to watch them.  The response is apparently they need to save the rest of us from bad advice!

Gardening is a hobby ‘enjoyed’ by 1000s but does that enjoyment depend on how much they can moan?  I was reminded yesterday when talking to an Aunt in Australia of the expression “whinging pomms” which was/is used to refer to UK immigrants to Australia who complain about everything.  Maybe we British just like to moan and maybe there is as much moaning in other hobbies?

Personally, I follow Christopher Lloyd’s maxim that you should do a gardening task when you think of it.  If you do the Chelsea chop in June so what, it won’t kill the plant and it doesn’t matter whether you cut your sedum back with shears or carefully go through each stem looking for nodes.  I know, I have tried both and in late June and had excellent results.  We should learn to trust our gardening instincts, to work with nature and not to fixate on what the ‘gardening guru’ says. We should enjoy watching gardening programmes whether they are extravagant make-overs or simple ideas of what to do now and take them as opportunities for inspiration and encouragement.  We should learn to enjoy what nature gives us; to enjoy a beautiful gushing waterfall with its amazing wildlife and rejoice that the river isn’t dried up in the previously forecast drought.  And we should learn to stop blaming that monster ‘climate change’ for everything that goes wrong including the fact that we left our half-hardy plants outside and the temperature dropped to -18C in the winter!!!

I am turning the comments off as these are my views.  I know others won’t agree but I don’t really care and I don’t want to encourage anymore whinging and moaning so you will have to do that elsewhere. So as the comedian says ‘Thank you and goodnight’!.

Update 7/8/12 – Goodness I can’t believe how many hits this blog post has had.  I think it is the most I have had in one day for one post.  It seems that many agree with me although I am sure there are also many who don’t.  Anyway, I have been persuaded to be braver and turn the comments back on.