It seems the horticultural world has reached a consensus. A definitive accord has been thrashed out in the national potting shed (/internet) the proclamation – ‘gardening is good!’. Here hear, I too have seen the light! Gardening civilises the soul and steadies the mind. Studies have repeatedly shown its positive impact on vulnerable people’s mental wellbeing, on community cohesion and on public politeness.
So, how to capitalise on this perfect plantae panacea? The BBC runs Dig In, a vegetable forum designed to help horticultural virgins – good if you like free seeds and high taxes. Garden Organic has just launched the One Pot Pledge, which aims to get 30,000 of the horticulturally uninitiated growing pesticide free basil – good if you like pesto and slugs. Various community schemes, such as Project Dirt, aim to facilitate fields of fecund flora in places as farfetched as Camberwell and Croydon – good if you like beards and your neighbours. But really? License Fee Payers? Pesto Makers? Hippies? Boris Johnson?!? These people don’t need to be whipped into gardening, they probably all have four allotments already. No, As any hardworking mother will tell you, the group of people would most benefit from a little fresh air are the teenage boys.
Teenage boys are prone to mental health problems, antisocial behaviour, reclusiveness and couch-potato-ism. I can’t back this up at all, but I’m also pretty certain they are the demographic with the lowest occurrence of gardening per thousand people, probably about 0.005. They are the clump of people who most need to get growing, and they are the group I shall be aiming to help with my 2010 summer campaign, Get Boys Grafting, launched with little fanfare today on this website.
So how to get the sebaceous darlings gardening? How to get them out of their bedrooms? Not easy. As we all know teenage boys have two universal interests, computer games and internet pornography. Both are inherently bedroom based and garden incompatible.
Weaning them from pornography is just too cruel, and probably contravenes their human rights, so I don’t suggest we try that. However developers have tried to ease the transition from the digital world to the dig-it-all world in the past, by combining Massively Multi Player Online Gaming (MMPOGing) and gardening. GardenParty is one such attempt.
Now it’s been nearly half a decade since I was a teenage boy, but I’m certain that even in those innocent times I would not have been exited by the prospect of playing an online game of paper-scissors-stone with my gardening chums. This is not the right message to sent to juvenile delinquents about what us soil lovers get up to. What’s more it is indicative of the mistake made by the majority of the garden media in everything they have ever produced. It’s all home-knitted cardigans and Blue Peter dogs. Teenagers don’t like knitwear and faithful companions; they like lightning, dragons and death skulls. We need to make our image more like this.
Teenage boys need to know that gardening is essentially just about fighting. Not about fighting orks, or trolls, or griffins, or even sexy dark elves, but about fighting bindweed and slugs and hungry pigeons. This style of rebranding has been used effectively by the national parks; by disguising their nature walks as LARP quests (Live Action Role Play quests) they have tentatively began to encourage the pale and internet shrivelled tolkienites into the great outdoors. And as the picture below shows, it seems to be working.
The World Of Warcraft is attractive to the average boy for two reasons, firstly you get to crush and destroy things with exiting and faintly ridiculous weapons, and secondly no one cares if you’re morbidly obese or have a face resembling a congealing lava flow. Gardening already has these facets. Yesterday I spent the morning squashing entire civilisations of black fly between my finger and thumb, the afternoon hacking down threats with my long handled hoe, and I struggle to think of a group that places less importance on personal appearance than the gardeners (thank goodness).
So as the first step in my new campaign to give gardening the kick-ass makeover it deserves I have written to Felco, suggesting they change the design of their secateurs so they look less like this:
And more like this:
Wilkinson’s Sword to tell them their hoes should look less like this:
And more like this:
And Gardener’s World to suggest their presenters look less like this.
And more like this:
Once these small changes have been implemented I‘m sure we will see a huge rise in the number of teenage boys taking up gardening and the world will be a far better place.
I shall be at Chelsea Flower Show this Tuesday where I will be delivering free one-to-one lectures on this fascinating subject. I may even make a pamphlet.