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Easy-gardening products can’t beat getting your hands dirty

Feet lying in grass

I’ve gazed into my crystal ball… and can report that 2013 is all about gardening made easy. That’s because gardening retailers are targeting novice gardeners in a big way with ‘easy-gardening products’.

There are plenty of novice gardeners around – a recent RHS survey identified a ‘lost generation’ of gardeners, mostly in their 30s and 40s, who had no gardening education at school.

Marketeers sometimes refer to these would-be customers as having ‘Alfesco Aspirations’ – they want an outdoor experience but don’t want to get their hands too dirty. They’re drawn to quick and easy solutions, and want guaranteed success.

New easy-gardening products

‘Guaranteed success’ is very unlikely if you’re a British gardener, thanks to our unpredictable climate and legions of pests and diseases. But the following products could get you started:

Easy-to-sprinkle flower seed mixes – Miracle Gro and Westland Gro-Sure are launching all-in-one mixes made up of flower seeds, feed and compost.

Easy-dose bottles – Bayer Garden has designed a new ‘Easy Dose’ concentrate bottle which delivers the correct amount of product, such as bug killer.

Easy veg seeds – Wilkinsons is bringing out a new variety of veg seeds that are said to deliver high yields, as well as resisting pests and diseases.

Robot mowers – John Deere launched its first robot mower, the Tango E5 last year. Plus, Bosch, Honda, Flymo, Husqvarna, Viking and Al-Ko are planning releases for 2013. Manufacturers are confident there is a market for robot mowers (they’re already selling well in Europe) despite their very high price tag – the Tango E5 costs over £2,000.

Getting to grips with gardening

Some of these products strike me as the gardening equivalent of a supermarket cake mix. You’ll produce a cake that you can say you made yourself and show it off to your friends. However, you won’t have understood what actually makes a great cake, or how to avoid the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’. For that you need to read recipes and follow them properly, as well as taking advice from baking friends.

It’s the same with gardening. You can sow seeds, but that alone won’t make them grow.

You need to grow them in the most suitable place and prepare the soil carefully first. You need to protect them from pests and diseases; and that doesn’t just mean reaching for the nearest chemical. You need to feed and water them. You need to make compost. You need to be in touch with the seasons and appreciate the whole ecosystem that is your garden. You need to take advice from other gardeners, and you need to make mistakes. These beginner products might be a good start, but they’re no substitute for getting your hands dirty.


Surprisingly, just like everyone doesn’t want to be a cordon bleu chef, but wants to put nice food on the table, most people with a garden want it to look nice without devoting their entire life to making it do so. Some people will move on from these products to get more interested in gardening, others will just enjoy a garden that looks nice without requiring a lifetime of understanding.

Next you’ll be suggesting that none of us should use smart phones unless we can also program them, and maybe design our own operating systems, too!

A few years ago I sowed a new lawn, I didn’t use the grass rolls as unfortunately they are too expensive. Last year it was starting to look patchy so I bought Miracle Grow Patch Magic. I have never come across such a useless product. In the end I got Tesco seed and some compost, and that grew, no problem.

I grow from seed each year because I get a sense of achievement out of the results, I marvel at how a seed becomes a plant, and it’s cheaper. It’s a lot of work though, so I understand why others buy plants to make their garden look nice and productive. I think they miss a lot, but they probably do other enjoyable things with their spare time. What I find hard to understand though is the price people are prepared to pay for this. And what is a shame is the volume of annuals sold before the frost season finishes – a cynical way to double your sales when replacements are needed. Yes, some education would probably help a lot of armchair gardeners make better choices.