Back in February I got an email from a friend saying I should apply to go on the Big Allotment Challenge 2014. Looking at the criteria for the programme, it indicated that I was far too qualified to be considered. They didn't want anyone who was serious about gardening but wanted novices.
I watched the first episode of "The Big Allotment Challenge" and what did I get? A group of novices growing radish. Need I say more?
To say that this was an enormous disappointment would not be an exaggeration. All that programmes like this do is encourage unprepared beginners to take on allotments that overwhelm them in less than a month. What with Monty and his gardening for grannies, serious gardeners do not get a look in.
We need to loose the rose tinted, romantic vision of growing vegetables and show people the hard work and effort that goes into a well managed allotment.
So what kind of gardening programme would I like to see?
A group of experienced amateur gardeners taking over bind weed, mare's tail and couch grass infested 90 x 30 foot allotments with the aim to turn them around in one season. They should start in August or September and have the allotments ready to plant in the spring of the next year. They should be allowed to use machines if they want or do it by hand. Although they could use black plastic to help to clear the ground of weeds, they should not be allowed to use chemicals.
Horticultural qualifications should not be a bar on participants. They should demonstrate their skills in growing a wide range of good quality pest free vegetables including 'difficult' ones like cauliflower and celery. They should demonstrate their ability to do advanced tasks such as making good quality compost together with an understanding of how to mix potting and seed composts; pruning fruit trees to cordon, espalier and fan; producing at least one successful graft of a fruit tree; taking and successfully striking cuttings of soft fruit; planting and managing a greenhouse of various vegetables and fruits (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, grapes, peach, apricot) and producing at least one type of cut flower to exhibition standard.
They should plan a rotation and grouping of vegetables; also showing how they prepare the soil for each of the crops.
Now that would be a programme worth watching.