Gardening not for 'thick or dull', says Titchmarsh

Alan Titchmarsh Alan Titchmarsh called for more to be done to reconnect young people "with apples rather than Apple Macs"

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Gardeners need to show that their profession is not for "thick, dull or unadventurous" people, says television gardener Alan Titchmarsh.

In a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) study, Mr Titchmarsh says gardening is "undervalued" by the young.

The study claims 72% of horticulture firms cannot find skilled workers, with teens viewing the job as "unskilled".

"If this situation continues, British horticulture will become a pale shadow of its former self," he said.

Mr Titchmarsh called for more to be done to reconnect young people "with apples rather than Apple Macs, plant cells rather than cell phones and raspberries as well as Blackberries".

Some 200 businesses were surveyed for the report. More than two thirds (67%) said that those entering the profession were inadequately prepared for work.

Start Quote

Our role is undervalued by government, by the population and by young people in particular”

End Quote Alan Titchmarsh

Almost one in five (19%) said they had to recruit skilled staff from abroad and 83% said they blamed difficulties on recruitment on a poor perception of horticulture in schools and colleges.

A separate survey of 500 secondary school teachers suggested that fewer than a third (30%) were aware of horticultural qualifications with only 20% aware of the "vast career opportunities" available.

Only 16% of the school staff surveyed promoted horticultural careers to their pupils, with many regarding gardening as a hobby rather than a career choice, says the report Horticulture Matters.

Earlier research has suggested that many teenagers believe careers in the sector are for those who have failed academically.

This poor perception of horticulture as a career is despite the fact that the industry contributes £9bn to the UK economy and employs 300,000 people, says the report.

"Our role is undervalued by government, by the population and by young people in particular," writes Mr Titchmarsh

"In every instance because they just do not understand the breadth of what we do and its importance in terms of the well-being of the planet and its population."

He writes that gardeners "have the best jobs in the world", ranging from "growing plants, designing gardens, managing open spaces feeding the population, looking after historic trees and famous gardens, conducting scientific research into plant breeding, pests and diseases, collecting plants in far-flung parts of the globe... the list goes on... 60 different areas to my reckoning".

'Green skills gap'

The report calls for urgent action to bridge the green skills gap, welcoming government plans to include gardening in the national curriculum as part of design and technology - but says more could be done.

"We ask government to embed horticulture across the national curriculum, to encourage young people to study further the subject in higher education and consider [the sector] as a future career," said RHS director general Sue Biggs.

"The horticultural industry is facing a skills crisis, ageing workforce and lack of young people coming into the industry."

"We are unanimous in the belief that there must now be urgent action to save British horticulture and it must happen now. Our report calls on the government, employers and those in the education system to take action to safeguard the critical role that horticulture plays in Britain today."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said reforms to the national curriculum were aimed at giving schools more flexibility in what to teach.

"In our draft Design and Technology curriculum, we have provided various topics in the programmes of study so schools can choose what they want to focus on. This includes horticulture as well as electronics or woodwork."

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs added: "It's really important that the horticultural industry is able to attract the right people to the sector.

"Through our Future of Farming initiative we are working with the industry to help more talented, entrepreneurial young people build careers across the agriculture sector, including horticulture."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I grew up with only a back yard and still appreciate the patch of green whch is mine to care for and to sit in on the one sunny day of the year!

    Gardening is wonderful therapy. A time to get some fresh air to the brain and relax. Take the snobbery out of gardening and just learn to enjoy the simple pleasures in a wonderful hobby.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Judging by the state of some of the gardens in the denser populated areas I would say that it is a never-ending battle against those too thick or inconsiderate to clear up their weeds. Then they hold you to ransom by saying that they will concrete over their gardens to save them the bother of looking after their garden.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Every time the BBC tries to "sex up" Gardening programmes with interesting features and attractive presenters it's accused of dumbing down the subject, so it's a no win situation. You either have a visually exciting subject with the suspicion of it's being dumbed down or you have a potting shed slug who knows its stuff but who's as exciting as watching paint dry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I would have thought that with greater interest in the environment, and programmes like Countryfile, that horticulture as a career would have become more appealing. But, I guess that low (or perceived as such) starting wages are probably the real reason why young people are not attracted to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    13. lee
    " I refuse to learn there language or understand a fraction of what they do."

    I see that you also refused to learn English.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    My grandad could have proved to anyone that gardening is not just for the thick and dull. He had fantastic well designed gardens - and knew the Latin names for almost all plants - yet could keep people genuinely fascinated when he talked about it all. A very intelligent man, and a New Forest volunteer conservationist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I enjoy gardening and have considered going back to train professionally - though I'm still very much an amateur. Gardening isn't an activity for thrillseekers, but it can sit perfectly well alongside an interest technology (obviously, or this Grow Your Own fan wouldn't be commenting on here surely?) Gardening isn't dul eitherl, it's just not necessarily for people who expect instant results.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Although not a gardener, I would say that gardeners have a soul. They are receptive to the glory of colour, the balance of nature, and the wonder of growth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Perhaps the image has been produced due to the poor wage packets, nothing to do with skilled labour etc. The joy however is being able to go a pick fresh runner beans/peas/rhubarb/etc.etc. but that is not a job, that is a way of using the ground you bought with the house in order to make it pay its way, oh sorry in order to get more profit builders no longer give you a garden worth having!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    We have too many cheap radio and TV programmes about gardening, (and antiques and food). Gardening is overexposed and programmes about it have become dull.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Re #9 I am neither thick nor am I dull, I just don't enjoy gardening. In the same way I don't enjoy fishing, watching paint dry or laying patios.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Perhaps the poor image of gardening has something to do with the 'Dumbing down' of gardening programs in recent times.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Growing your own is great fun, especially gardening naked in a polytunnel,hardly dull! Perhaps those who sit gormlessley at their TVs and computers should try connecting with nature instead. We are after all supposed to be part of nature itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    It is said that humans are the gardeners of the World and to a degree ,since domesticating agriculture, we are indeed. However, we are increasingly living urbanised and detached lives which is being propelled along by the individual and insular digital age. People play farmville on FB whilst in the back seat of a car driving past farms.

    Anyway,Charlie Dimmock made gardening interesting for me

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I work in a technical department with a bunch of nerd's. I refuse to learn there language or understand a fraction of what they do. Mainly because what few friends I have I'd like to keep. Gardening looks pretty exciting in comparison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Such negative comments! If you find gardening back-aching, you're doing it wrong! I have a tiny plot, just a rubbish strewn patch when I moved into my house 6 years ago. Bit by bit I've created a tiny, tranquil, flower-filled patch of joy - on a shoestring budget. My heart is lifted every time I look out at it or potter about in it and the wildlife seems to like it too! Alan, you're alright!

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Interesting. My post was removed as I used the word "dimwit" (how offensive is that) but "moron" goes through without any problem....

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Gardening is fascinating, but it also is hard and sometimes tedious work in what, in British weather, can often be unpleasant conditions... and it is not well paid.

    At the school where I govern, there is a thriving Gardening Club. Last year the children created a 'wild' garden based on that at the Olympic grounds (& got a picture on the Olympic website!).

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    It's quite the reverse...

    It's the non gardeners who are "thick or dull"

    Remember Panorama's spaghetti tree in 1957, about half the population fell for it, indicating they had no idea about food stuffs, it's worse now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    It's all about sacks.


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