A behind-the-scenes look at the gardening world, where there's more going on than you might expect.
One of the perks of working for a prominent national newspaper is that we're often asked to try out new plants and products. Most of them are so tried and tested during development that, by the time we get them, they’re ready for release and we just get them a bit early. This means that there is little for us to do except write about them from the advantage of having grown or used them.
Some are great fun to try out! Many years ago, we were loaned one of the early robotic mowers for two weeks and watched it rambling round the garden with amusement. To our surprise, the results were really good and we were actually quite sorry to see it go. Not so the leaf blower we were loaned to try out one autumn, which was so powerful you felt it would have lifted you into the air if you’d pointed it downwards! It was almost impossible to handle without blowing half our garden into next door and we handed that back without any regrets.
Occasionally, as we’re also trained horticulturists, we’re asked to grow a trial of plants that are being reviewed for selection, which is more fun. It involves keeping detailed records of growth, flowering, disease or pest attack and general health. Then we report back and our results are compared with trials in other places to see how things vary. From this data, selections can be made until finally, the plants that will go on sale are the only ones left and will fully justify their place.
Some of the products we try out are already on sale in other countries, such as the AeroGarden hydroponic system, which is already very popular in the USA and European countries like Germany.
We’re often asked what people can grow in the small flats that are becoming more common today. The first question is always whether there are any useable window sills and the answers vary widely.
So, we tested it in a windowless room to make sure there was no natural light at all to give it the worst possible conditions. It performed very well during the germination and early growth stages of six different herbs, and all had emerged within 10 days of starting the kit up.
Since then, the unit has had to be moved due to building work and it’s now in a darkish corner. However, the growth has improved greatly so, at this stage, we can surmise that the plants do benefit from some natural light as they get bigger, with the LED lights as a supplement.
This test means we can honestly say we would recommend a kit like this to anyone wanting to grow plants like herbs at home with only limited light, but we haven’t tried it with tomatoes or chillies (which are also options as part of the kit).
This week, we took delivery of some cast iron daffodils (Below) from Gardman, which are being sold in aid of the Marie Curie Cancer Care charity. These attractive ornaments are designed to hold bird food or water as well as looking pretty in the garden. It’s our pleasure to support such a great cause.
We also see trying out new methods of growing as part of our job and we’re currently growing a range of fruit plants in containers to see how well they perform. If they do well, this is one option for anyone with only a balcony to grow plants or anyone who is renting and may need to take everything with them if they move.
We’re also growing a small moth orchid in a large wine glass to add to our list of suggestions for modern indoor plantings. It’s always tricky putting a plant in a container without drainage, especially when it’s a plant that you already know will die if it gets waterlogged. We don’t willingly kill our subjects and if it begins to struggle, the experiment will be abandoned as a bad idea, but if it can cope, then this will make a great talking point as a table decoration.
All these new developments are essential if gardening is to progress, rather than stagnate and it’s important that we pass on what we learn. As part of this, we’ll be putting reports on this website when we try new things out, whether we recommend them … or not!
Behind the headlines: Testing times
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