Tuesday, 26 May 2020

The Vegetable and Herb Expert - Dr D G Hessayon

When I grew up, we had Percy Thrower in black and white on the TV, the gardeners’ answer to Barry Bucknell’s DIY. We also had those ‘expert’ gardening bibles from Dr David Hessayon whose somewhat simple but straightforward books sold over 51 million copies and are as relevant today as they were some 50 years ago. Their popularity was such that the sales nearly equated to one for every household in the UK.

Then came the new gardeners to grace our lives; Geoff Hamilton, Alan Tichmarch, Anne Swithinbank, Pippa Greenwood, Charlie Dimmock, Bob Flowerfew, Joe Swift and many more. We now have the superstar and everyone’s favourite, Monty Don. These have all graced our TV, presented on radio and written books, for magazines and many column inches in those weekend newspapers.

We appear to have an insatiable appetite for all things gardening. One day Monty shows us an old trick on how to pot on plants without disturbing their roots and next its all over the internet with everyone with a smartphone posting it as the best tip of the day. One recommendation on TV and like some famous cook shows impact on supermarkets, the garden centres are stripped of the recommended plant.

At our allotment site we have a significant number of magazines which have been kindly donated by members and which provide a source of reference to be shared by all. I wanted to spend some lockdown time looking through these, so I arrived home with some 40 gardening magazines from our library covered May, June and some of July and roughly the years 2014 to 2018. The magazines were Gardeners’ World, Grow Your Own, Kitchen Garden and Gardening News.

Some of the magazines were weeklies, others monthly and all included vegetables and allotment subjects and all featured household gardening names and personalities. Today there are some dozen or so gardening magazines published in the UK and vying for all our attention.

I wet my lips and could not wait to learn everything that one needs to know about growing in this important part of the season and to gain some great tips on how to improve my harvest.

There was so much to digest I found myself overwhelmed with advice on how to, when to, and what to do if. Interestingly when you look at the same subject over several years and across all the magazines you got much of the same advice. It may have used the same words but merely in a different way. Some article formats were more digestible than others and needed more time and often were more a dissertation than a synopsis. I quickly established my favourite magazine and started to dismiss the others.

We will all have different reading tastes so will select accordingly. One aspect that I found consistently annoying was the adverts which came at you virtually at every page turn. In some cases, your eyes competed with the latest netting, cloches, frames, tools etc whilst trying to read the article opposite. It was a relief to get to the smaller classified ads in some magazines as at least you could quickly turn these pages.

Just as I was putting the magazines in a bag to return to the pavilion, I received another gardening catalogue. No not one of the many seed catalogues that I get quickly browse and dismiss to Room 101 but one that came with my ‘Nemaslug’ biological slug killer. 100 pages packed with every conceivable product in a one stop shop. I quickly realised what I already knew, that gardening can be an expensive hobby. Maybe I should file this little glossy for a rainy day or for when I win the Lottery.

I think we have enough magazines at our pavilion to answer every plot holder’s questions and provide all the needed tips for many years to come and, if needed, we can always go back to Dr David Hessayon’s bible.