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Are you won over by celebrity gardening ranges?

Jamie Oliver

Do celebrity gardening endorsements and new ranges actually compel you to pick up a trowel? Jamie Oliver’s launched a new grow-your-own range at Homebase – but will he convince us to get our hands dirty?

Not content with penning bestselling cookery books, revolutionising school dinners, opening restaurants and launching a ‘dream school’ – Jamie Oliver now wants us to grow our own.

He’s just launched a range of seeds, plants, compost and outdoor cooking equipment at DIY retailer Homebase. They’re apparently ‘working together to encourage the British public to eat well and understand where their food comes from.’

Celebrity gardening endorsements deep-rooted

The seeds in Jamie’s range are actually nothing new – they’re readily available in other seed ranges and often at a lower price.

While some of them are Which? Best Buys, a few, such as Florence fennel, are tricky for a beginner to grow. However, Jamie’s Head of Food Development (now that sounds like a nice job!) told us that the varieties were chosen with taste in mind.

Jamie’s not alone in collaborating with a major gardening retailer. Alan Titchmarsh gives gardening advice on the B&Q website and has recently been photographed posing with hoses and cabbages by fashion photographer Rankin – presumably to show that gardening is ‘cool’. Meanwhile, ex-Groundforce presenter Charlie Dimmock is back in the limelight as the face of Gardening Direct.

Does Jamie Oliver inspire you to grow veg?

But is Jamie’s face on a packet of radish or Alan extolling the virtues of a good mulch really going to get us reaching for a trowel?

It feels like every day that we get news of another ‘dig for victory’ or ‘Good Life’ campaign on the Which? Gardening newdesk, and the message seems to be getting through. Allotment waiting lists are at an all-time high and veg seeds now outsell flowers.

However, there are still plenty of people who have no interest in gardening and still more who probably wouldn’t have a clue where their food comes from.

According to recent research, 39% of garden owners claim to have a good knowledge of gardening. That’s great news – but that still means that a whopping 61% of people are a bit clueless. What’s more, only 23% of 25-34 year olds say they have good gardening knowledge. The 77% who don’t are exactly the people Jamie is hoping to win over.

Any grow-your-own convert will tell you that there’s nothing like the taste of home-grown veg. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Gardening is good for you, and if Jamie, Alan and Charlie can convince a few more people of that, it can only be a good thing.

Pickle says:
17 February 2011

Well, Yes – celebrity promotion may get the faint hearted to grow things, but I’m not won over to this source of knowledge – my Mr Middleton prewar book has been my bible for so long and got results.
Budding gardeners need to get reliable information on how to deal with their particular garden
ie. soil type, best plants for their particular location, time to plant.etc

I think Jamie Oliver has done an amazing job of encouraging non-cooks to get in the kitchen – so why not do the same for the garden? It would probably help if he had an accompanying garden show though! I’m with you, Veronica, any encouragement to get people using their gardens is a good thing – there are so many gardens being unused, it seems a crime. I often look over the fence to the next-door garden all overgrown and wish I could use it for extra vegetable-growing space!

The only downside is I do suspect these celeb endorsements come with a price tag.

Surely he had a gardening show last year?

The one where his gardener had cameo roles doing all the hard work for him????

I think JO is brilliant and I’m not knocking him here at all; but perhaps he doesn’t have the time, or inclination, or possibly the skills, to do a gardening show as well as his school show and running the restaurants and all the rest?

I’m a huge fan of Jamie I admit, but whenever I see a celebrity endorsement on any product of any kind in any shop or on any web site the first thing I do is walk right away and ignore it.

Hannah is exactly right: they come with a monstrous price tag, and quite often they are actually amongst the lower quality end of the product range too.

I agree that any encouragement to get people to grow things (especially in this day and age when kids – and indeed many adults – cannot recognise basic vegetables but know evert fast food trade mark by heart) must be welcomed with open arms and I applaud Jamie for this as much as I did for his school dinners issue (when will he tackle hospital food please???)

But I urge anyone who has developed enough knowledge to be able to do so to buy very carefully and to check all the non-celebrity products before parting with cash.

But then, aside from thinking JO is wonderful, I must declare another interest too: I grew up in a family of avid amateur gardeners, I still use 80 year old garden tools of outstanding quality that have been passed through the generations and my interest in gardening is such that I’ve recently got my garden into the National Gardens scheme, so I have to be honest and recognise that I have developed the ability to spot a rip off and budding newcomers cannot be expected to do this, so lets none of us put them off until they find their roots.

matthew says:
19 February 2011

A bit rich for Which to cast aspersions on endorsements when it’s now selling itself to soap powder manufacturers et al to advertise themselves as ‘Which Best Buy’.

Great to see anyone promoting grow your own. Fresh nearly always tastes better and far more nutritious. What we need is local places to sell the excess so we can make a few quid as well. Why at BigBarn.co.uk we have ‘Crop for the Shop’ and local shops flagged with a rosette called community Champions where you can take anything you have grown for local people to buy.

Great for the shop wanting a good range of fresh produce, great for local people and health. And great for the country as we cut food miles and imports!

Vicky Phillips says:
13 July 2011

I don’t go to Homebase very often so I have only just caught up with the new JO range. I was completely horrified to see his growbags have more than 50% peat in them. What’s the point in him banging on about saving the fish and hens, and better eating if he can’t get something so simple right. They were on sale alongside Homebase own brand peatfree growbags aswell! Far from selling appropriate things for the time of year they were also selling Jamie sweet potato seedlings. It’s hard enough to grow sweet potatoes in the UK if you start them off at the right time but mid-July? Very likely to disappoint new gardeners.

Jim Norris says:
26 November 2011

I bought Jamie Oliver F1 hybrid tomatoes, albeit at a price, from Homebase – they gave me the best crop I have ever had . Cherry, plum and beefsteak. I have just made the last batch of sauces and soups. Wonderful!!

Sue says:
24 March 2012

I bought a Jamie Oliver Artichoke and Horseradish collection from Home Base and I feel ripped off!
I would have been far better off if I’d bought a piece of horseradish root from a grocers and a few jerusalem artichokes and it would have cost less than the five quid I paid for the Jamie Oliver labeled box that contained the tiniest bits of root for each plant….so pathetically small I almost needed a magnifying glass to find them…..Never again.

Jamie Oliver, you must be making money hand over fist, but if you don’t watch your quality control….you’re going to start loosing the stuff. Word always gets around when the goods get shabby.
Very disappointed,

Janet B says:
21 April 2012

I also bought a collection (artichoke, horseradish and jerusalem artichoke,) but found no instructions inside! Please can someone tell me what to do with them before they completely wither away?

Angharad says:
21 May 2012

Glad to hear it’s not just me – my artichoke and horseradish collection said it would have instructions inside, but didn’t. I have just hoped for the best and stuck them in the veggie patch. I’m not optimistic about them growing, though.