BBC Radio 4

    Gardeners' Question Time

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    I went to the Gardeners' Question Time annual Summer (sic) party over the weekend - at the Royal Horticultural Society Northern headquarters at Harlow Carr - just outside Harrogate. It was not Summery. The wind blew hard and it was cloudy - but it was fun - and the first time we've held the party away from the programme's Southern base at Sparsholt. We are establishing a GQT garden/plot at Harlow Carr in an attempt to find out more about differences in growing conditions between the North and South of England - and the experiments will provide useful editorial material for the programme - for instance, in measuring the impact of climate change.

    Gardeners' Question Time is now made by the independent company Somethin' Else. (It had previously been made very well by Taylormade - who bowed out voluntarily in the summer after a long stint). We are not planning any upheaval to the programme - but some things have already changed. We are placing the features within the programme in a different way - and I think it makes for a better listen. The web site is improved and the programme is now also available as a podcast. Audience figures have held up well in recent years. The most recent RAJAR figures show that over the course of a typical week over 1.4 million people catch at least 5 minutes the programme - a figure that has remained essentially unchanged in the last 5 years.

    Of course the questions and answers from the audience remain the central plank of Gardeners' Question Time and on a personal note I am perpetually amazed at how the panellists answer anything that's thrown at them without so much as a note or book in sight. And they have no advance notice of the questions at all. Amazing.

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