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Which? Gardening turns 30, what would you like us to trial?

We’re celebrating Which? Gardening’s 30th birthday by looking through the archives. We’ve trialled everything from organic pest controls to petunias, from roses to rotavators. And we want your ideas for more trials!

Which? Gardening’s archives make fascinating reading – and not just for the interesting haircuts of colleagues past and present.

In 1982, gardening was less about lifestyle and more about hard work. Veg was grown to save money, power tools were expensive and clunky, and chemicals were used liberally. Peat was used like it was going out of fashion (it later did) and no one had heard of food miles. TV makeover shows such as Ground Force had yet to hit our screens and allotments were a strictly male domain.

The first issues of Which? Gardening featured trials of secateurs, hedge trimmers, tulip bulb suppliers, composts and moss killers – all good, practical stuff that we still cover today.

But in many ways the magazine was ahead of its time. It covered organic growing long before it became fashionable, looked at ‘exotic’ veg way before most people had heard of pak choi, and campaigned to get more kids in schools gardening. It even extolled the virtues of loofahs (they didn’t catch on).

What should we put to the test?

Trials are what make Which? Gardening unique, of course, and it’s been fascinating to discover the lengths that the magazine has gone to when trying out a new product or plant.

Some trials are the stuff of legend: in 1993, a large bed of roses was cut to the ground with a hedge trimmer. It was found that rough pruning them in this way worked just as well as traditional techniques. In 2003, 500 readers experimented with growing crops according to the lunar calendar. They concluded that where the moon was didn’t matter – but that weather conditions did.

The magazine still strives to find the tastiest fruit and veg, the most beautiful and robust plants and the best possible products. It trims acres of turf every year to find the best mowers, sprays tools with salt water to see if they rust, spools and unspools hoses 300 times to see if they kink and deliberately infects roses with black spot. As I write, millions of whitefly are poised to meet their maker in a trial of aphid controls.

So, is there anything you’d like to see Which? Gardening cover? A technique you’d like us to put the test? A product you’d like to see put through its paces? Or a type of fruit or veg you’d like us to grow and taste? We’re currently putting our 2014 schedule together and would love to hear from you.


The removal of tree stumps.

I’ve dug out a few in my time, and there are lots of useful tips to make this difficult job that much easier. On occasions, however, it’s just not possible and nor is getting a stump grinder down the path beside the house.

In these instances, with the stump cut at ground level, what are the best poisons to use on trees that regenerate? What are the risks to other plants, children and pets? And what’s the best method of application?


I have no personal experience but I have been told on more than one occasion that glyphosate will do the job if poured into holes drilled in the stump. If done carefully, it should be safe.


What I have suggested will not remove the stumps, of course – only prevent further growth.


Cheers Ben. Great idea, and as it happens, we’re looking to do a feature on this next year : )


Would like to suggest some trials on protection (of young sensitive fruit trees) against frost. I have lost young specimens of Chinese gooseberry (Actinidia deliciosa) and its allegedly more frost resistant relative A. arguta, in the last two winters. And a young fig was badly damaged but did regrow from beneath the soil. Fleece was of no help to the A. arguta, even using the heavier (70g/m2) version double, suspended on a bamboo cage around it. The same around the fig still saw the fig badly ‘burned’ by frost but it has regrown. Now I have a fine new A. deliciosa 1.9m tall and the regrown fig looks great at 1.3m tall. To protect them I am thinking of, after leaf fall, making the same but taller bamboo cage with fleece and this time filling it with straw. All this is experimental and quite costly (especially in time – we’ve lost two years so far). It would be great if Which? Gardening could do some trials, especially of these ‘warm temperate’ species that should be of importance with global warming. I would be happy to collaborate: I have max / min thermoters for inside the ‘cages’ as well as in a conventional Stevenson Screen from which I record daily temperatures. We are in Oxford.


Frost protection: further to my suggestion above. An additional question concerns the value of a mulch in frost protection. I have a mulch around all my newly planted fruit trees. Presumably this helps conserve warmth of the soil at night. But might this be counter-productive if it blocks heat radiation from the soil at night thus allowing the above ground stem and branches to suffer more from the cold?

R Christie says:
1 October 2012

I like to keep fresh herbs growing in pots on the kitchen windowsill. I regularly cut Coriander, Basil and Parsley (which I keep going by re-potting cuttings), and I’m about to try Lemongrass and Dill too.

Of course when the daylight shortens they die back. I fancy making some growing boxes with artificial lighting to keep some growing over the winter. LED’s are now inexpensive to buy and run and are available from red to ultra-violet. I wonder though, what is the optimum balance of lighting? Maybe this is something your experts might try and report back to us in due course.

David Simpson says:
4 December 2012

I would like plant supports tested. There are so many types now available and some are quite expensive, I would like to know which are the most cost-effective. Each year I buy some more hoops, spirals, link stakes and last year even some girdles! Some worked, some didn’t. I also use good old fashioned bamboo canes and string but these are a bit unsightly and never look natural plus the string often snaps causing everything to flop. I lost several Delphiniums this year with this problem.


I am interested in buying a rotavator to keep my veg garden neat and prevent breaking my back. Yet could not find any previous results on which?. So strongly suggest rotavators as a new trial please!