Brains not brawn- Gardening is a profession that’s vital to the future of our planet

Brains not brawn- Gardening is a profession that’s vital to the future of our planet



Horticulture is such an exciting profession to join. These days the role of the horticulturist is vast, and one I feel the average man/women in the street does not appreciate. Gardeners are no longer those people who are of limited intelligence or social outcasts that can’t keep a job, or are not suitable for anything else.

“Gardeners are no long those people who are of limited intelligence”

Christine Walkden

The industry and all its sectors have changed, they now engage modern methods and technology. Gardeners do not spend every hour on their knees weeding by hand. They have to be aware of modern methods of environmental control, pesticide legislation, planning laws, national and international laws.

The modern horticulturist is now required to be an engineer – who else designs modern glasshouses for production horticulture, who is it that develop robotics for pricking out, modules for plant handling, LED lighting to save space and energy. They have to be computer literate to enable them to manipulate crop production programmes so that they can adjust all the environmental factors under glass at a touch of a keyboard.

We need horticultural mechanics who keep developing mowers suitable for every conceivable type of turf from bowling greens, horse race tracts, tennis, polo to wildlife areas. Who is it that maintains our motorway verges, public green spaces and our countryside?

Who is it, that is now needed to take the issues of antibiotic resistance to a new level and find plant related substances that can overcome this and other drug related issues? It’s the plant scientist, the horticulturist who travel into other people’s life styles and identifies what the San people of South Africa can give to the modern world, along with other cultures that we do not value or appreciate.

“Who is it, that is now needed to take the issues of antibiotic resistance to a new level”

We need the horticulturist that understands plant nutrition to enable producers to maximize productivity, to develop those nutrients that will be absorbed even when plant’s roots are damaged or growing in compacted soils, or where soils have been contaminated by flood water. They need to be designed so they do not cause contamination into our water ways. Who is it that needs to be in a position to select the best application method?

NASA Zinnia Flower

The first Zinnia flowers grown in NASA’s vegetable tower on the International Space Station. Credit NASA


Where do our irrigation experts come from. They need an understanding of plant growth, water and its role in the plant, when to apply it, when not, how to collect it, recycle it and store it.

Who is it that is continually developing our growing media? What do they need to know, it’s simply not that it’s just dirt! They need to understand all soil life, particle size, properties of the individual component, how they change with time, are they safe, which crops can they be used for and how should we dispose of them if we have to.

Where do our journalists, broadcasters, green keepers, conservationist, plant collectors, research staff, pest and disease experts, taxonomists,

arboriculturists, etc come from? I’ll tell you where – the youngsters of today who we need to show what their technology can achieve. We need to engage kids in what really happens when a co² unit fails, how they can grow plants to a certain size with the same number of leaves and the same flower size and petal number.

“I’ll tell you where – the youngsters of today who we need to show what their technology can achieve”

Could they be responsible for feeding the world without any soil or natural light? As space becomes an increasing problem, as more and more houses are built, our countryside is being built on, so where will we be producing food in years to come? They need to be shown that gardening is much larger than what a lot of school teachers think it is. Its not their fault they do not know how or why our industry has moved on in the way it has.

“Could they be responsible for feeding the world without and soil or natural light?”

I feel sad that for a lot of kids the main exposure to the vastly exciting world of gardening is through seed sowing or tree planting at school. Don’t get me wrong. I think this is a good start but teachers often do not have the skill, knowledge, time or experience to show the youngsters just what is going on out there. Greg Wallace’s TV programme – Harvest, gave an inkling to the modern world of horticulture. It should be shown in all secondary schools just to inform that we gardeners don’t just kneel all day pulling out weeds.

Incredible Edible

Incredible Edible

Community programmes such as Incredible Edible, have brought people together showing the life enhancing experiences of being outside with other people. Some are introduced to crops they may well have never seen, grown or tried. We now have a greater understanding of the benefits to mental health that growing can bring. The development of hospice gardens, the recuperative ability of sensory gardens are all now well known.

“the life enhancing experiences of being outside…The benefits to mental health that growing can bring”

I think its time to take kids out into the industry, the environment and our cities and just show them what’s exciting about horticulture, for it’s their world and they through horticulture can feed it, enjoy it and change it for the better, not only for themselves but for everyone, and it could be there job for life, and what a fantastic one.


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  1. 2
    Karen Martin

    As an Assessor of Horticulture apprentices, I wholeheartedly agree. We all need to put in the effort to spread the word about what a vast and exciting industry it is, and what a fantastic time it is to be joining it. There needs to be an awful lot of skill & knowledge backing up the ‘grunt’ labour!

  2. 3
    Lynda Harris

    I couldn’t agree more! But if we are pushing science and engineering in horticulture, can Christine encourage BBC GQT to use metric as much as imperial measurements please?

  3. 4
    Trey Pitsenberger

    “Gardeners are no long those people who are of limited intelligence”. Not sure that was true in the pastor now. Intelligence does not require a certain “job” description. Some of the most “intelligent” people I have known we’re gardeners (horticulturists).

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