Chris Collins interview

Blue Peter gardener, Chris Collins

Chris Collins in the Plantastic! exhibition

Listen to Chris Collins talking about Plantastic! and telling us what we can do in our gardens this spring.

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Chris Collins: My name is Chris Collins, I suppose I am best known for being the Blue Peter gardener! This is the best way to teach kids about plants really - big interactives with things to get them involved and for them to get their hands on. It's really impressive. Education is about having fun as well as getting a serious message over and it captures that perfectly.

Interviewer: Why do you think it's important to get kids interested in plants?

Chris Collins: Well, with plants it's a case of 'no plants, no nothing'! (Laughs) It's quite important to human survival and all survival. Also they are just wonderful things, wonderful creatures if you like. But because they stand still and don't move around - they are very unassuming - it's easy to overlook them. But once you get involved with them you realise it's a fascinating world, the world of plants.

Plus you've got to look at the fact that they are a good vehicle for education. If you do a garden you've got to measure it, (a bit of maths), you've got to draw it (a bit of art) and you've got to have team work to build it (a bit of physical education). You learn about nurturing and you find out where your food comes from. There are all these benefits and plants are at the centre of that.

Interviewer: Is there anything exciting happening in the Blue Peter garden at the moment? Any projects coming up?

Chris Collins: I'm going to be growing a lot veg in there this year so I'm doing a lot of stuff for Blue Peter. It's the quiet before the storm if you like! I will be in there this Sunday as I physically look after it as well as doing the telly. I'll go and give it a nice clean up ready for spring and then it'll be time to start sewing a lot of seed. There'll be a few big projects going on this year - we're going to build a big wildlife area. I've also got a redundant area in the corner. What you have to understand about the Blue Peter garden is that it's a studio more than it's a garden so you have to allow for people who make telly who can be quite messy to be honest with you! (Laughs)

Interviewer: You were talking a bit before about easy things to plant. What sort of things could we all start planting in our gardens at this time of year?

Chris Collins: I'd give it a few weeks yet, I'd start sewing seeds at the beginning of March. With plants it tends to be that once you have a couple of successes you're away! People tend to be a bit intimidated about growing stuff to begin with. They think it's harder than it really is, to be honest with you. Something like rocket is great, you put that in the ground and it grows like a rocket! You can just nip that off and use it in your salad and that's quite satisfying. Things like potatoes - there's a potato called rocket too that's really quick - also spinach and lettuce.

If you wanted to plant any kind of shrubs or bigger stuff, this is a good time of year to do it, when they're still dormant. They will get their roots down and will start to move in the spring. If you want a bit of colour you could grab yourself some wallflowers from the garden centre and they will give you some spring colour.

Finally, I think you should have a little wildlife area. Sow a bit of meadow seed in the corner and even some nettles - you can use them as foliate feed and they allow for butterflies. Always have a little area for wildlife.