I often listen to Radio 4 in the car as it gives me something other than horses to talk about. However, I coudn't help turning this answer to a question on Gardener's Question Time into the perfect answer to anyone going to Equine College.
"Can the panel offer any advice to a new student of horticulture? I'm starting the RHS Level 2 course in a couple of weeks."
JW: "...The first thing about horticulture is that very often it is all about rules. Horticulture is almost like a very geeky times table...something you need to memorise...you have to know every one exactly right - the right pruning angle and the exact month and if you don;t do it exactly as the text book says it's going to die. Frankly all the horticulture rules are just tips and trick to get better results. Plants have been living millions and billions of years without squirrels that are trained exactly the right angle to prune them....They are very helpful to you but just go out and give it a go...many of the rules have no basis in science. They were made up by Victorian gardeners to make themselves seem smarter and to make their job seem a little bit more complicated than it was. So they've done trials on things like roses, cutting them by half with a hedge trimmer and found that it actually encourages more flowers and more disease resistance than doing the whole laborious Victorian idea. So do follow them to learn them but don't feel you have to have slavish devotion to them."
BF: "...the rules are guidelines. You've got to ask yourself what they were trying to achieve by doing this and question. The rules are written by people who grow to show; they're not interested in actually producing nice produce or tasty things....They're actually trying to produce the biggest or the finest. A lot of the advice comes from agriculture and again they are looking at production and ease and that is for things like tractors - well we've got a spade. So read everything, learn everything, but ask yourself always what were they trying to achieve and is it what I'm after?"
PG : "Conduct your own trials. The more practical work you do the better....and also think what would happen if I do this? What would happen if I do that? So as much practical work as you can do and back it up."