Gardening,News

My April Walkabout16 Apr

My April Walkabout

I gave an interview on BBC Radio Northampton at about 8.00am this morning (Thursday), I was asked by Bernie Keith, did I think it changes had been beneficial to the traffic flow around the roundabout, I said I hoped it would create a significant improvement but it was a bit too early to tell. I was then very late for work as the roundabout had experienced its first serious accident since being re developed. I hope those concerned were ok?

They say a picture can paint a thousand words, that probably true but it doesn’t get across how wonderful our Garden Centre looks right now, so I ran round the Garden Centre (probably not quick enough for some) with my i phone, link attached.

I don’t do pride, however I would like to say that our great team of people have got this Garden Centre looking as good as it has ever done. Now the sun is finally starting to warm us and the soil up the plants are responding with good growth and flower. We have missed out on a long spring as March was so dull. Plants are all now moving into top gear all at once. It is a great time to feed all plants by throwing some fertiliser onto the ground around the plants. Growmore is a well balanced feed with an application rate of 50-100 grms per meter square. It will move into the soil slowly with rain or watering, it will remain in the soil for several months after application. Feeding plants well will encourage growth, encourage flowering, reduce stress and therefore reduce disease.

As it is the middle of April it is important to get some vegetables in the ground either seeds or plants. We have got seeds, small plants or big plants plus great advice. If you are trying to encourage the younger generation Radish germinate and grow very easily, I am not so sure they will enjoy eating them though! Beetroot are also easy to grow from seed outside in the soil, they are also a great super food, and they make your wee go red!. Sometimes it can be as economic to buy some small veg plants rather than a packet of seeds. Small plants will establish better than sowing seeds in a less well prepared seed bed. Buying plants also buys you time, you will be able to harvest the plants sooner than if you planted seeds.

heuchera

Heuchera are a small semi evergreen plant that have a massive variation in foliage and flower colour. They are pretty tough and grow well in most soils. The foliage colours, textures and leaf patterns are amazing, they vary from lime green,oranges to dark green and light to dark purple. The flowers stand up well above the plant on this whispy stems white, red to purple. They are great at filling out a shrub be or herbaceous border.

For all you more experienced Gardeners I have got 24 pallets of Professional PH Compost from Doncaster arriving tomorrow!!

Have fun in your Garden, would be great to see you.

Ashley

Gardening,News

My talk with Paulerspury Horticultural Society10 Apr

My talk with Paulerspury Horticultural Society

I had a really great evening yesterday, I was invited to talk to the Paulerspury Horticultural Society about Bell Plantation, how I have developed it over the last 25 years, our plans for the future and our values, plus a bit about growing vegetables, it was good to see so many familiar faces. What on earth could I teach master growers about growing vegetables? We all had a good chat about the Bell Plantation and a small chat about growing veg. I asked what we could do as a business to help Growers and village Hortic Societies. The conversation moved onto the closure of Youngs Nursery at Blisworth. The majority of my Audience loved the professional compost PH from Doncaster that Youngs used to stock, as a result of this we have got a 24 Pallet load arriving here on the 17th April. I also learned of a few other want’s and needs that we will put into action in the future to accommodate the more experienced gardener. Thank you all for the feedback and information it was a pleasure. If you are involved with a Horticultural Society please drop me a line so that I can keep you posted with our new Gardener products.

Camelia2

Magnolias are looking fabulous, at the moment.They are grown for their showy,solitary,fragrant,flowers. They are fully hardy to frost tender depending on variety. They grow well in moist, well-drained, humus rich acid to neutral soil in sun or partial shade, they do not like a windy site, I have one Magnolia grandiflora either side of my front door in a windy position and they are not that happy, struggling to get established, I probably move them at the end of this year.

Sheena walks Minnie our Jack Russell around the fields every day, last Thursday you could see Minnie walking in the rape field, by Saturday you couldn’t see her as the rape had grow several inches in just a few days.

The strong sun this week has warmed the soil and encouraged all the plants to start growing. A few days after the first cut of the lawn is the ideal time to get a weed and feed onto the grass. Remember not to cut the lawn too short on the first cut. It makes really hard work for the mower and the human operator! Lower the mower over the first 3 to 4 cuts to the optimum level.

Have a great weekend

Ashley

Gardening,News

April Flowering Plants and Easter02 Apr

April Flowering Plants and Easter

Not much sun last week suppressed the potential growth in the garden, the lack on sun meant the air was cooler and no solar gain to the soil delaying the full onset of Spring.

Some of the first colour in gardens is provided by flowering cherries, Prunus ‘Kojo- no-mai’ and Prunus incisa ‘Paean’, these are both shrub like plants that eventually grow to height of about 1.5 meters, they are currently covered with pale pink flowers. A larger shrub / tree providing a mass of deep pink flowers is the Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardii Nigra’ (bit of a mouth full) a really great tree/shrub with dark purple foliage, great for early striking colour. I planted a multi stemmed one in my garden last year it was about 3 meters tall, it is delivering the goods covered in flowers. They are a really tough plant that grow well in most soils. They are well suited to the soil type here in sunny South Northants!

prunus kojo

The wind has been a bit of a problem last week, check to see that any newly planted trees or shrubs have been moving around in the soil, if they have fill in the socket formed in the ground with some soil and heel them in firmly, adjust and tighten the tie.

Fertiliser, now is a great time to go around all your plants with a huge bucket of Growmore or Chicken Poo, these granular fertilisers are best put on the ground now so that by the time the plant needs the nutrients the rain should have washed them into the soil. All plants will benefit from a good early feed, you will get better flowering, fruiting, colour, less disease, faster growth, spread the poo nutrients!
If in any doubt about anything in your garden we have a wonderful well experienced team of friendly people here at the Bell Plantation, there is no such thing as a silly question.

I must tell you,(however I am not supposed to market in this blog) we have a wonderful range of Chocolate in the farm shop that has been made in the form of hand tools spanners, paint brushes, nuts and bolts etc. The nut actually is threaded and comes off the bolt!! its very good chocolate too.

I have just put our first Goose eggs of the season into the incubator,I didnt fancy scrambled egg this morning! 37.7 degrees centigrade a bit of humid air for 29 days and we should have some Geese, the wonder of life. Obviously they would be better hatched under a Goose Mrs Goose did not feel like sitting on her eggs at the moment.

turf

We’ve got a pallet of turf in stock if anyone wants a DIY weekend on the lawn. It’s £4.49 a roll or 10 for £40. It is the best quality turf so don’t hesitate.

Have a wonderful Easter, we too will be having the day off on Sunday only (Sunday trading laws), it is one of the 4 days a year we are shut!!
It is a great weekend for family life and of course Gardening.

Happy days

Ashley

Gardening,News

Ashley’s Blog27 Mar

Ashley’s Blog

I am pleased to say that the works on the roundabout seem to be nearing completion. It seems to take for ever to get the last finishing touches together. Already the traffic flows have changed, it now really needs the new traffic lights working to prioritise the flow. I sound like a bit of an expert on traffic flow!! Sheena and I purchased some of the site here at Bell Plantation before the first A5 / A43 roundabout was built back in 1987, when it was just A5 north and south. We purchased the house that Klas Day Nursery now occupy. Since then the whole of the A43 from the M1 to Oxford has been re built, bypassing Towcester and Brackley. As a business trading through the re development of the roundabout has been difficult, I hope once it is complete you will all return to our wonderful family run, friendly business.

We are still recruiting, we need a Chef for the Cafe, full time. We need a front of house person in the Cafe, 10-30 hours a week.We need a Farm shop assistant 20-30 hours a week, so if you know anyone who is interested please drop me an email.

strawberries

We have had so many deliveries of plants in this week, Judy was on her own in the plant area yesterday as Steve had his day off , 5 lorries arrived with plants, Judy was still smiling at the end of the day. We have got a small selection of fruit and vegetables to start off the season, tomatoes included. It is still too cold to put some of these plants outside, however if they are protected from the frost and in some cases given a small amount of heat they will grow on to provide an early crop of vegetables. Traditionally gardeners sowed their first seeds in the vegetable garden under a plastic cloche. Garden Cloches keep in the heat from the sun, the soil warms up more as it is protected from the cooling wind. During the night when there is no sun the warm soil prevents the air in the cloche freezing, this is not enough protection for tender plants ie tomatoes and cucumbers, they will need some heat protection until mid April. Cloches are great for early beetroot, lettuce, cabbage, carrots etc. It is amazing how positioning plants against a sunny wall can make a difference, brick or stone walls absorb a huge amount of heat from the sun, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers etc planted against a wall in a container or in the ground in a grow canopy will be protected from the frost by the residual heat from the wall and the tomato canopy, all this extra heat will allow earlier cropping.

Time to prune roses, I have spoken to the team at David Austin in the past re pruning their roses, they said they prune most of there roses with a hedge cutter!! Shrub roses may be? When you only have one or two it is important they fit your garden and they are growing in the direction and shape you want them. Early in the season you can prune back harder than later in the season. If you prune back hard later in the season it will delay flowering.

Just a quick note!! We have our own Pork sausages available in the Farm Shop in a couple of weeks we will have our home produced beef. A complete, locally grown Sunday lunch in one shop!

Our team look forward to seeing you.

Have a great weekend

Ashley

Food,Gardening,News

The sun is shining (apart from this morning)20 Mar

The sun is shining (apart from this morning)

Ash is off today looking at buying a brand new Shorthorn bull for his herd. They are pretty expensive but can be really worth it if they sire great calves with strong genes.

What a fantastic day it has turned out to be – warm, sunny and clear. All after the most complete solar eclipse since 1999. I watched it from my patio at home and only just saw it through the cloud. It created an unusual atmosphere in the air – cold and a very odd light.

The Garden Centre has been busy today, people buying plants and supplies for the weekend, popping in for a quick lunch or Coffee. We’ve got a really full plant area, lots of stock of herbaceous, bedding and shrubs arriving as we speak. We also have a new specimen area, full of larger, more established plants and loads of alpines which look great with Errington Raey’s courtyard collection – see below.

courtyard

We’ve also had a massive change around in the Farm Shop this week, we’ve replaced the fridges with brand new ones, creating even more space for delicious food.

FS

The roundabout is pretty much finished, at last! The traffic flow is a lot greater than before, they need to get the lights working but at least we aren’t sitting in long queue’s any more.

Pop in this weekend if you’re out an about, we’d love to see you. If not, enjoy the good weather, get out in your gardens.

Regards,

Freddie

Gardening,News

Spring into your garden this March13 Mar

Spring into the garden this March

I have had 10 days off work with a chest infection and have missed most of March, well a third anyway. At this time of year there is so much that can be done in the Garden. This week the soil has started warming up, absorbing the increased energy from the sun. All the tiny little root hairs on the end of large trees to the smallest seedling will be twitching into activity, weeds included.

As I write this the the wind and the sun are drying out the surface of the soil. This is the best time to work the soil as you will cause less damage to the soil structure, good soil structure is essential for good plant growth. Turning over the soil either by digging or rotavating will open up the soil, reducing compaction, incorporate oxygen and create the right soil, air and water balance for great root growth, if you get a chance incorporate organic matter and fertiliser now is a good opportunity.
Obviously, established shrub beds and herbaceous borders may not need digging, however a good mulch every couple of years will help keep the weeds down, increase moisture retention, improve fertility and increase organic matter. All these things will help to make your garden grow better and look more beautiful than it would otherwise have done.

Within the next week or so you can start to plant early potatoes, we have got over 40 varieties available. Good boilers, chippers, mashers etc. Why don’t you grow some for showing at your local village garden show, late summer, autumn its great fun, if you need any info drop me a line or have a word with the Bell Plantation team.

seed potatoes

Now is a great time to plants vegetable seeds if you want to crop them early. Tomato seeds planted in a plastic propagator on the windowsill or heated greenhouse give great results and wonderful for encouraging the next generation of budding gardeners.

If planted now in a propagator in the kitchen, the seeds will take a couple of weeks before they pop up through the compost, they will then grow quickly (depending on heat and light levels) into small plants, about another 2-3 weeks. When about 20-30mm tall plant them into individual 10cm pots, they can then grow in these for another 3-4 weeks before planting in a larger pot or grow-bag. Make sure they are planted outside when frost free or plant them out earlier in a grow frame.

Propergaring Seed

I have started calving my cows at home, we have already had 3 calves another 24 to go. I like to calve the cows in the spring so that there is lots of grass in April for the cows to produce lots of milk for the calves. We will very shortly be introducing our own beef into the farm shop 3-4 weeks. A week on tuesday / wednesday we will have our first lot of home grown pork and sausages for sale, will keep you posted.

Freddie says keep an eye on the website for loads of great deals and opportunities.
We are also recruiting for 4 new positions at he Bell Plantation.
If you would like to join our friendly family business drop me a line ashley@bellplantation.co.uk

Have a great weekend

Ashley

Food,Gardening,News

Free Bread Friday + Seed Potato Talk24 Feb

Free Bread Friday + Seed Potato Talk

Free bread Friday bannerweb2

It’s FREE BREAD FRIDAY at the Plantation Farm Shop this Friday. Spend £5 in store and get a FREE small loaf of freshly baked white or granary bread by Tees in Northampton. It’s only while stocks last so get yours early.

Potato banner

It’s time to start growing your own! Come along to this workshop and our Potato expert Steve will give you all the information you need to grow your very own delicious potatoes. It’s really not as hard as you might think. Whether you are a beginner looking for the basics or an expert looking to hone your skills, Steve will be happy to answer all your questions.

He’ll be covering the following topics:

  • Chitting Potatoes – using seed trays / egg boxes.
  • Soil preparation – getting organic matter into the soil and keeping a good soil structure.
  • Earthing up soil while they’re growing.
  • Harvesting and storage using hessian sacks.
  • Saturday 28th February 2015. 11am – 12noon.

    Give us a call if you want to come a long to this event, or just turn up instead if that suits you.

Gardening,News

Snowdrops – The sign of Spring20 Feb

Snowdrops – The sign of Spring

It’s great to see some growth appearing in the garden, Snowdrops are a delightful early flowering plant, they are a sure sign that Spring is on its way. Snowdrops can be purchased in the Autumn as dried bulbs, this method of growing them is less successful than planting them when they are in the green (as a growing plant). Snowdrops can be purchased in Garden Centres growing in a pot. If you have some already growing in your garden, they can be divided. After they have flowered push your garden fork into the ground beside the clump of snowdrops and ease them gently out of the ground. When the clump is out of the ground divide them into several smaller groups, about 5-7 plants and then re plant elsewhere in the garden. Remember to plant them at the same depth that you found them. The snowdrops will then root in the new site, die back and then will re appear in the next January / February.

Snow Drops

When the ground is wet, which is quite frequently at this time of year, it is better to stay off the soil. Working the soil while wet causes compaction, pans on the top etc. Walking on the soil pushes out all the air pockets in the soil and they fill up with water, this creates a less good environment for plant roots to grow.

If you have peach or cherry trees now is the time to spray the tree with a fungicide to prevent peach leaf curl.
Planting trees and shrubs at this time of year will enable them to establish without the need for a high labour input from yourselves i.e. watering every day or other day. During the first few months of spring the roots will grow softly and quietly under the ground before the plant comes into leaf. When the leaf does open the roots are already established providing the leaves with food and water. Obviously when it gets very hot you will have to water the plants, however it will be less frequently than would otherwise be required.

Time to prune roses and fruit. Autumn fruiting raspberries should be pruned right down to the ground.
We have got tonnes of seed potatoes to choose from earlier, second earlies and maincrop. Now is the time to start chitting first earlies, eyes (embryo shoots) uppermost, place in a single layer in a light frost proof shed or room to encourage the tubers to sprout.

I am, as usual, really looking forward to the new gardening season ahead. Just in case you didn’t know, we are an independent (one of the few remaining) small, family run businesses who love Gardening. We have a great team of local gardening, cooking and food enthusiasts here at your service.

Look forward to seeing you.
Have a great weekend.

Ashley

Gardening,News

Plant your sweet peas now22 Jan

Plant your sweet peas now

If you want some early Sweet peas (Lathryrus odoratus) now is the time to plant them. Sweet peas are really easy to grow and provide plenty of colour and variety to your garden, some varieties are heavily scented. The seeds are relatively large and easy to handle, great for encouraging children to get gardening. Soak the seeds in water before planting for 12 -24 hours in warm water. Plant the seeds 1 cm below the soil/ compost surface. At this time of year it is best to plant them in small 100mm seed pots, 4 seeds per pot, a clear plastic bag could be placed over the top to create humid conditions, germination will take 7 – 21 days depending on the temperature they experience. When the plant is 100-150mm tall and the root system is developed plant out into the garden or container, protect from hard frost. Climbing sweet peas should be planted where they can climb up a fence of where they can access some form of support. Water and feed and watch them grow. If you miss the fun of growing them from seed they are available at all reputable Garden Centre’s growing in a pot in February, March.

Sweet Pea

Congratulations to Steve our Plant area manager and his wife Emma on the birth of their daughter Lily. The first child is always a massive life changer! Steve has got great plans for our plant area this spring. We will be increasing the range of plants we stock and the area. We are lining up some great plant offers with the marketing department (Freddie). It seems that website and social media are the way forward! The mention of our Venison, ‘probably the best in Northamptonshire’ in my blog last week created a sell-out, wow!

Jo, (Garden Centre retail manager) as we speak is busy banishing all Christmas stock to the store. The shop has been completely turned around, Gardening again takes the pride of place, as it should. Potatoes, seeds, propagation, compost take priority. Christmas occupies a disproportionate amount of our time in relation to the sales, however is essential for our business as we have very little other trade in the dark months of the year. And its great fun!

When we first opened the Farm Shop in September 14 all the cakes were brought in from outside bakers, I am pleased to say that the majority are all now made on site in the Plantation Café. The Café team are turning out to be Master Bakers too, production and sales increase most weeks.

I am sad to say that our lovely white Christmas tree (love it or hate it) got stolen from its position adjacent to the metal Cockerill near the roundabout, we think on the evening of Sunday 4th January 2015, if anyone saw anything of note perhaps you could let us know.

Have a good end to the week and weekend

Ashley

Gardening,News

Embrace Jack Frost – He can help!16 Jan

Embrace Jack Frost – He can help!

It’s 4.43pm and its still light, things are moving the right way, Spring is moving nearer. However the forecast is terrible for the next week to 10 days. Freezing temperatures and snow. If you have just dug over your vegetable garden you are the lucky one because the water particles in the top layer of soil you have turned over will freeze, when water freezes it expands, the water expanding in the soil will force apart the soil particles and organic matter. When the ice melts the soil particles will fall apart creating a wonderful tilth. “Tilth, the condition of soil or land that has been tilled, esp. with respect to suitability for promoting plant growth”. A good tilth is essential for a good germination % of seeds. The frost is a lot more efficient at breaking down the soil into a good tilth than a spade, rake or rotavator, make the most of it. Try and turn your soil over while there is a chance of frost.

My tips for this week are: cover up your taps, lift your outdoor pots off the ground onto pot feet, cover up your tender shrubs, coryline, pittosporum, exposed ceanothus etc. Empty your hose pipe of water to prevent splitting even if it’s in a garden shed.

Seville oranges are now in stock in the Farm Shop if you want to make your annual batch of Marmalade. They will only be available for a few weeks at this time of year. Sheena always makes a bucket load, great for gifts. It is my favourite fruit preserve, I love it on Artisan Crispbread (Best crispbread in the world) and no butter!! Taste the orange.

Dark, cold evenings are a great time to plan your garden for the coming season, if you need any advice or ideas we are always here to help.

Seed Potatoes1

Our Scottish seed potatoes are now in stock, there are offers available. We stock Thompson and Morgan 2.3kg and 1kg bags. If you want to plant some for the first time come and see me.

Our Marketing department (my son Freddie) tells me that we have got some of probably the best Northamptonshire Venison in stock this weekend? Is this correct?

Have a great weekend

Ashley

My April Walkabout

My April Walkabout

I gave an interview on BBC Radio Northampton at about 8.00am this morning (Thursday), I was asked by Bernie Keith, did I think it changes had been beneficial to the traffic flow around the roundabout, I said I hoped it would create a significant improvement but it was a bit too early to tell. I was then very late for work as the roundabout had experienced its first serious accident since being re developed. I hope those concerned were ok?

They say a picture can paint a thousand words, that probably true but it doesn’t get across how wonderful our Garden Centre looks right now, so I ran round the Garden Centre (probably not quick enough for some) with my i phone, link attached.

I don’t do pride, however I would like to say that our great team of people have got this Garden Centre looking as good as it has ever done. Now the sun is finally starting to warm us and the soil up the plants are responding with good growth and flower. We have missed out on a long spring as March was so dull. Plants are all now moving into top gear all at once. It is a great time to feed all plants by throwing some fertiliser onto the ground around the plants. Growmore is a well balanced feed with an application rate of 50-100 grms per meter square. It will move into the soil slowly with rain or watering, it will remain in the soil for several months after application. Feeding plants well will encourage growth, encourage flowering, reduce stress and therefore reduce disease.

As it is the middle of April it is important to get some vegetables in the ground either seeds or plants. We have got seeds, small plants or big plants plus great advice. If you are trying to encourage the younger generation Radish germinate and grow very easily, I am not so sure they will enjoy eating them though! Beetroot are also easy to grow from seed outside in the soil, they are also a great super food, and they make your wee go red!. Sometimes it can be as economic to buy some small veg plants rather than a packet of seeds. Small plants will establish better than sowing seeds in a less well prepared seed bed. Buying plants also buys you time, you will be able to harvest the plants sooner than if you planted seeds.

heuchera

Heuchera are a small semi evergreen plant that have a massive variation in foliage and flower colour. They are pretty tough and grow well in most soils. The foliage colours, textures and leaf patterns are amazing, they vary from lime green,oranges to dark green and light to dark purple. The flowers stand up well above the plant on this whispy stems white, red to purple. They are great at filling out a shrub be or herbaceous border.

For all you more experienced Gardeners I have got 24 pallets of Professional PH Compost from Doncaster arriving tomorrow!!

Have fun in your Garden, would be great to see you.

Ashley

My talk with Paulerspury Horticultural Society

My talk with Paulerspury Horticultural Society

I had a really great evening yesterday, I was invited to talk to the Paulerspury Horticultural Society about Bell Plantation, how I have developed it over the last 25 years, our plans for the future and our values, plus a bit about growing vegetables, it was good to see so many familiar faces. What on earth could I teach master growers about growing vegetables? We all had a good chat about the Bell Plantation and a small chat about growing veg. I asked what we could do as a business to help Growers and village Hortic Societies. The conversation moved onto the closure of Youngs Nursery at Blisworth. The majority of my Audience loved the professional compost PH from Doncaster that Youngs used to stock, as a result of this we have got a 24 Pallet load arriving here on the 17th April. I also learned of a few other want’s and needs that we will put into action in the future to accommodate the more experienced gardener. Thank you all for the feedback and information it was a pleasure. If you are involved with a Horticultural Society please drop me a line so that I can keep you posted with our new Gardener products.

Camelia2

Magnolias are looking fabulous, at the moment.They are grown for their showy,solitary,fragrant,flowers. They are fully hardy to frost tender depending on variety. They grow well in moist, well-drained, humus rich acid to neutral soil in sun or partial shade, they do not like a windy site, I have one Magnolia grandiflora either side of my front door in a windy position and they are not that happy, struggling to get established, I probably move them at the end of this year.

Sheena walks Minnie our Jack Russell around the fields every day, last Thursday you could see Minnie walking in the rape field, by Saturday you couldn’t see her as the rape had grow several inches in just a few days.

The strong sun this week has warmed the soil and encouraged all the plants to start growing. A few days after the first cut of the lawn is the ideal time to get a weed and feed onto the grass. Remember not to cut the lawn too short on the first cut. It makes really hard work for the mower and the human operator! Lower the mower over the first 3 to 4 cuts to the optimum level.

Have a great weekend

Ashley

April Flowering Plants and Easter

April Flowering Plants and Easter

Not much sun last week suppressed the potential growth in the garden, the lack on sun meant the air was cooler and no solar gain to the soil delaying the full onset of Spring.

Some of the first colour in gardens is provided by flowering cherries, Prunus ‘Kojo- no-mai’ and Prunus incisa ‘Paean’, these are both shrub like plants that eventually grow to height of about 1.5 meters, they are currently covered with pale pink flowers. A larger shrub / tree providing a mass of deep pink flowers is the Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardii Nigra’ (bit of a mouth full) a really great tree/shrub with dark purple foliage, great for early striking colour. I planted a multi stemmed one in my garden last year it was about 3 meters tall, it is delivering the goods covered in flowers. They are a really tough plant that grow well in most soils. They are well suited to the soil type here in sunny South Northants!

prunus kojo

The wind has been a bit of a problem last week, check to see that any newly planted trees or shrubs have been moving around in the soil, if they have fill in the socket formed in the ground with some soil and heel them in firmly, adjust and tighten the tie.

Fertiliser, now is a great time to go around all your plants with a huge bucket of Growmore or Chicken Poo, these granular fertilisers are best put on the ground now so that by the time the plant needs the nutrients the rain should have washed them into the soil. All plants will benefit from a good early feed, you will get better flowering, fruiting, colour, less disease, faster growth, spread the poo nutrients!
If in any doubt about anything in your garden we have a wonderful well experienced team of friendly people here at the Bell Plantation, there is no such thing as a silly question.

I must tell you,(however I am not supposed to market in this blog) we have a wonderful range of Chocolate in the farm shop that has been made in the form of hand tools spanners, paint brushes, nuts and bolts etc. The nut actually is threaded and comes off the bolt!! its very good chocolate too.

I have just put our first Goose eggs of the season into the incubator,I didnt fancy scrambled egg this morning! 37.7 degrees centigrade a bit of humid air for 29 days and we should have some Geese, the wonder of life. Obviously they would be better hatched under a Goose Mrs Goose did not feel like sitting on her eggs at the moment.

turf

We’ve got a pallet of turf in stock if anyone wants a DIY weekend on the lawn. It’s £4.49 a roll or 10 for £40. It is the best quality turf so don’t hesitate.

Have a wonderful Easter, we too will be having the day off on Sunday only (Sunday trading laws), it is one of the 4 days a year we are shut!!
It is a great weekend for family life and of course Gardening.

Happy days

Ashley

Ashley’s Blog

Ashley’s Blog

I am pleased to say that the works on the roundabout seem to be nearing completion. It seems to take for ever to get the last finishing touches together. Already the traffic flows have changed, it now really needs the new traffic lights working to prioritise the flow. I sound like a bit of an expert on traffic flow!! Sheena and I purchased some of the site here at Bell Plantation before the first A5 / A43 roundabout was built back in 1987, when it was just A5 north and south. We purchased the house that Klas Day Nursery now occupy. Since then the whole of the A43 from the M1 to Oxford has been re built, bypassing Towcester and Brackley. As a business trading through the re development of the roundabout has been difficult, I hope once it is complete you will all return to our wonderful family run, friendly business.

We are still recruiting, we need a Chef for the Cafe, full time. We need a front of house person in the Cafe, 10-30 hours a week.We need a Farm shop assistant 20-30 hours a week, so if you know anyone who is interested please drop me an email.

strawberries

We have had so many deliveries of plants in this week, Judy was on her own in the plant area yesterday as Steve had his day off , 5 lorries arrived with plants, Judy was still smiling at the end of the day. We have got a small selection of fruit and vegetables to start off the season, tomatoes included. It is still too cold to put some of these plants outside, however if they are protected from the frost and in some cases given a small amount of heat they will grow on to provide an early crop of vegetables. Traditionally gardeners sowed their first seeds in the vegetable garden under a plastic cloche. Garden Cloches keep in the heat from the sun, the soil warms up more as it is protected from the cooling wind. During the night when there is no sun the warm soil prevents the air in the cloche freezing, this is not enough protection for tender plants ie tomatoes and cucumbers, they will need some heat protection until mid April. Cloches are great for early beetroot, lettuce, cabbage, carrots etc. It is amazing how positioning plants against a sunny wall can make a difference, brick or stone walls absorb a huge amount of heat from the sun, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers etc planted against a wall in a container or in the ground in a grow canopy will be protected from the frost by the residual heat from the wall and the tomato canopy, all this extra heat will allow earlier cropping.

Time to prune roses, I have spoken to the team at David Austin in the past re pruning their roses, they said they prune most of there roses with a hedge cutter!! Shrub roses may be? When you only have one or two it is important they fit your garden and they are growing in the direction and shape you want them. Early in the season you can prune back harder than later in the season. If you prune back hard later in the season it will delay flowering.

Just a quick note!! We have our own Pork sausages available in the Farm Shop in a couple of weeks we will have our home produced beef. A complete, locally grown Sunday lunch in one shop!

Our team look forward to seeing you.

Have a great weekend

Ashley

The sun is shining (apart from this morning)

The sun is shining (apart from this morning)

Ash is off today looking at buying a brand new Shorthorn bull for his herd. They are pretty expensive but can be really worth it if they sire great calves with strong genes.

What a fantastic day it has turned out to be – warm, sunny and clear. All after the most complete solar eclipse since 1999. I watched it from my patio at home and only just saw it through the cloud. It created an unusual atmosphere in the air – cold and a very odd light.

The Garden Centre has been busy today, people buying plants and supplies for the weekend, popping in for a quick lunch or Coffee. We’ve got a really full plant area, lots of stock of herbaceous, bedding and shrubs arriving as we speak. We also have a new specimen area, full of larger, more established plants and loads of alpines which look great with Errington Raey’s courtyard collection – see below.

courtyard

We’ve also had a massive change around in the Farm Shop this week, we’ve replaced the fridges with brand new ones, creating even more space for delicious food.

FS

The roundabout is pretty much finished, at last! The traffic flow is a lot greater than before, they need to get the lights working but at least we aren’t sitting in long queue’s any more.

Pop in this weekend if you’re out an about, we’d love to see you. If not, enjoy the good weather, get out in your gardens.

Regards,

Freddie

Spring into your garden this March

Spring into the garden this March

I have had 10 days off work with a chest infection and have missed most of March, well a third anyway. At this time of year there is so much that can be done in the Garden. This week the soil has started warming up, absorbing the increased energy from the sun. All the tiny little root hairs on the end of large trees to the smallest seedling will be twitching into activity, weeds included.

As I write this the the wind and the sun are drying out the surface of the soil. This is the best time to work the soil as you will cause less damage to the soil structure, good soil structure is essential for good plant growth. Turning over the soil either by digging or rotavating will open up the soil, reducing compaction, incorporate oxygen and create the right soil, air and water balance for great root growth, if you get a chance incorporate organic matter and fertiliser now is a good opportunity.
Obviously, established shrub beds and herbaceous borders may not need digging, however a good mulch every couple of years will help keep the weeds down, increase moisture retention, improve fertility and increase organic matter. All these things will help to make your garden grow better and look more beautiful than it would otherwise have done.

Within the next week or so you can start to plant early potatoes, we have got over 40 varieties available. Good boilers, chippers, mashers etc. Why don’t you grow some for showing at your local village garden show, late summer, autumn its great fun, if you need any info drop me a line or have a word with the Bell Plantation team.

seed potatoes

Now is a great time to plants vegetable seeds if you want to crop them early. Tomato seeds planted in a plastic propagator on the windowsill or heated greenhouse give great results and wonderful for encouraging the next generation of budding gardeners.

If planted now in a propagator in the kitchen, the seeds will take a couple of weeks before they pop up through the compost, they will then grow quickly (depending on heat and light levels) into small plants, about another 2-3 weeks. When about 20-30mm tall plant them into individual 10cm pots, they can then grow in these for another 3-4 weeks before planting in a larger pot or grow-bag. Make sure they are planted outside when frost free or plant them out earlier in a grow frame.

Propergaring Seed

I have started calving my cows at home, we have already had 3 calves another 24 to go. I like to calve the cows in the spring so that there is lots of grass in April for the cows to produce lots of milk for the calves. We will very shortly be introducing our own beef into the farm shop 3-4 weeks. A week on tuesday / wednesday we will have our first lot of home grown pork and sausages for sale, will keep you posted.

Freddie says keep an eye on the website for loads of great deals and opportunities.
We are also recruiting for 4 new positions at he Bell Plantation.
If you would like to join our friendly family business drop me a line ashley@bellplantation.co.uk

Have a great weekend

Ashley

Free Bread Friday + Seed Potato Talk

Free Bread Friday + Seed Potato Talk

Free bread Friday bannerweb2

It’s FREE BREAD FRIDAY at the Plantation Farm Shop this Friday. Spend £5 in store and get a FREE small loaf of freshly baked white or granary bread by Tees in Northampton. It’s only while stocks last so get yours early.

Potato banner

It’s time to start growing your own! Come along to this workshop and our Potato expert Steve will give you all the information you need to grow your very own delicious potatoes. It’s really not as hard as you might think. Whether you are a beginner looking for the basics or an expert looking to hone your skills, Steve will be happy to answer all your questions.

He’ll be covering the following topics:

  • Chitting Potatoes – using seed trays / egg boxes.
  • Soil preparation – getting organic matter into the soil and keeping a good soil structure.
  • Earthing up soil while they’re growing.
  • Harvesting and storage using hessian sacks.
  • Saturday 28th February 2015. 11am – 12noon.

    Give us a call if you want to come a long to this event, or just turn up instead if that suits you.

    Snowdrops – The sign of Spring

    Snowdrops – The sign of Spring

    It’s great to see some growth appearing in the garden, Snowdrops are a delightful early flowering plant, they are a sure sign that Spring is on its way. Snowdrops can be purchased in the Autumn as dried bulbs, this method of growing them is less successful than planting them when they are in the green (as a growing plant). Snowdrops can be purchased in Garden Centres growing in a pot. If you have some already growing in your garden, they can be divided. After they have flowered push your garden fork into the ground beside the clump of snowdrops and ease them gently out of the ground. When the clump is out of the ground divide them into several smaller groups, about 5-7 plants and then re plant elsewhere in the garden. Remember to plant them at the same depth that you found them. The snowdrops will then root in the new site, die back and then will re appear in the next January / February.

    Snow Drops

    When the ground is wet, which is quite frequently at this time of year, it is better to stay off the soil. Working the soil while wet causes compaction, pans on the top etc. Walking on the soil pushes out all the air pockets in the soil and they fill up with water, this creates a less good environment for plant roots to grow.

    If you have peach or cherry trees now is the time to spray the tree with a fungicide to prevent peach leaf curl.
    Planting trees and shrubs at this time of year will enable them to establish without the need for a high labour input from yourselves i.e. watering every day or other day. During the first few months of spring the roots will grow softly and quietly under the ground before the plant comes into leaf. When the leaf does open the roots are already established providing the leaves with food and water. Obviously when it gets very hot you will have to water the plants, however it will be less frequently than would otherwise be required.

    Time to prune roses and fruit. Autumn fruiting raspberries should be pruned right down to the ground.
    We have got tonnes of seed potatoes to choose from earlier, second earlies and maincrop. Now is the time to start chitting first earlies, eyes (embryo shoots) uppermost, place in a single layer in a light frost proof shed or room to encourage the tubers to sprout.

    I am, as usual, really looking forward to the new gardening season ahead. Just in case you didn’t know, we are an independent (one of the few remaining) small, family run businesses who love Gardening. We have a great team of local gardening, cooking and food enthusiasts here at your service.

    Look forward to seeing you.
    Have a great weekend.

    Ashley

    Plant your sweet peas now

    Plant your sweet peas now

    If you want some early Sweet peas (Lathryrus odoratus) now is the time to plant them. Sweet peas are really easy to grow and provide plenty of colour and variety to your garden, some varieties are heavily scented. The seeds are relatively large and easy to handle, great for encouraging children to get gardening. Soak the seeds in water before planting for 12 -24 hours in warm water. Plant the seeds 1 cm below the soil/ compost surface. At this time of year it is best to plant them in small 100mm seed pots, 4 seeds per pot, a clear plastic bag could be placed over the top to create humid conditions, germination will take 7 – 21 days depending on the temperature they experience. When the plant is 100-150mm tall and the root system is developed plant out into the garden or container, protect from hard frost. Climbing sweet peas should be planted where they can climb up a fence of where they can access some form of support. Water and feed and watch them grow. If you miss the fun of growing them from seed they are available at all reputable Garden Centre’s growing in a pot in February, March.

    Sweet Pea

    Congratulations to Steve our Plant area manager and his wife Emma on the birth of their daughter Lily. The first child is always a massive life changer! Steve has got great plans for our plant area this spring. We will be increasing the range of plants we stock and the area. We are lining up some great plant offers with the marketing department (Freddie). It seems that website and social media are the way forward! The mention of our Venison, ‘probably the best in Northamptonshire’ in my blog last week created a sell-out, wow!

    Jo, (Garden Centre retail manager) as we speak is busy banishing all Christmas stock to the store. The shop has been completely turned around, Gardening again takes the pride of place, as it should. Potatoes, seeds, propagation, compost take priority. Christmas occupies a disproportionate amount of our time in relation to the sales, however is essential for our business as we have very little other trade in the dark months of the year. And its great fun!

    When we first opened the Farm Shop in September 14 all the cakes were brought in from outside bakers, I am pleased to say that the majority are all now made on site in the Plantation Café. The Café team are turning out to be Master Bakers too, production and sales increase most weeks.

    I am sad to say that our lovely white Christmas tree (love it or hate it) got stolen from its position adjacent to the metal Cockerill near the roundabout, we think on the evening of Sunday 4th January 2015, if anyone saw anything of note perhaps you could let us know.

    Have a good end to the week and weekend

    Ashley

    Embrace Jack Frost – He can help!

    Embrace Jack Frost – He can help!

    It’s 4.43pm and its still light, things are moving the right way, Spring is moving nearer. However the forecast is terrible for the next week to 10 days. Freezing temperatures and snow. If you have just dug over your vegetable garden you are the lucky one because the water particles in the top layer of soil you have turned over will freeze, when water freezes it expands, the water expanding in the soil will force apart the soil particles and organic matter. When the ice melts the soil particles will fall apart creating a wonderful tilth. “Tilth, the condition of soil or land that has been tilled, esp. with respect to suitability for promoting plant growth”. A good tilth is essential for a good germination % of seeds. The frost is a lot more efficient at breaking down the soil into a good tilth than a spade, rake or rotavator, make the most of it. Try and turn your soil over while there is a chance of frost.

    My tips for this week are: cover up your taps, lift your outdoor pots off the ground onto pot feet, cover up your tender shrubs, coryline, pittosporum, exposed ceanothus etc. Empty your hose pipe of water to prevent splitting even if it’s in a garden shed.

    Seville oranges are now in stock in the Farm Shop if you want to make your annual batch of Marmalade. They will only be available for a few weeks at this time of year. Sheena always makes a bucket load, great for gifts. It is my favourite fruit preserve, I love it on Artisan Crispbread (Best crispbread in the world) and no butter!! Taste the orange.

    Dark, cold evenings are a great time to plan your garden for the coming season, if you need any advice or ideas we are always here to help.

    Seed Potatoes1

    Our Scottish seed potatoes are now in stock, there are offers available. We stock Thompson and Morgan 2.3kg and 1kg bags. If you want to plant some for the first time come and see me.

    Our Marketing department (my son Freddie) tells me that we have got some of probably the best Northamptonshire Venison in stock this weekend? Is this correct?

    Have a great weekend

    Ashley

My April Walkabout

My April Walkabout

I gave an interview on BBC Radio Northampton at about 8.00am this morning (Thursday), I was asked by Bernie Keith, did I think it changes had been beneficial to the traffic flow around the roundabout, I said I hoped it would create a significant improvement but it was a bit too early to tell. I was then very late for work as the roundabout had experienced its first serious accident since being re developed. I hope those concerned were ok?

They say a picture can paint a thousand words, that probably true but it doesn’t get across how wonderful our Garden Centre looks right now, so I ran round the Garden Centre (probably not quick enough for some) with my i phone, link attached.

I don’t do pride, however I would like to say that our great team of people have got this Garden Centre looking as good as it has ever done. Now the sun is finally starting to warm us and the soil up the plants are responding with good growth and flower. We have missed out on a long spring as March was so dull. Plants are all now moving into top gear all at once. It is a great time to feed all plants by throwing some fertiliser onto the ground around the plants. Growmore is a well balanced feed with an application rate of 50-100 grms per meter square. It will move into the soil slowly with rain or watering, it will remain in the soil for several months after application. Feeding plants well will encourage growth, encourage flowering, reduce stress and therefore reduce disease.

As it is the middle of April it is important to get some vegetables in the ground either seeds or plants. We have got seeds, small plants or big plants plus great advice. If you are trying to encourage the younger generation Radish germinate and grow very easily, I am not so sure they will enjoy eating them though! Beetroot are also easy to grow from seed outside in the soil, they are also a great super food, and they make your wee go red!. Sometimes it can be as economic to buy some small veg plants rather than a packet of seeds. Small plants will establish better than sowing seeds in a less well prepared seed bed. Buying plants also buys you time, you will be able to harvest the plants sooner than if you planted seeds.

heuchera

Heuchera are a small semi evergreen plant that have a massive variation in foliage and flower colour. They are pretty tough and grow well in most soils. The foliage colours, textures and leaf patterns are amazing, they vary from lime green,oranges to dark green and light to dark purple. The flowers stand up well above the plant on this whispy stems white, red to purple. They are great at filling out a shrub be or herbaceous border.

For all you more experienced Gardeners I have got 24 pallets of Professional PH Compost from Doncaster arriving tomorrow!!

Have fun in your Garden, would be great to see you.

Ashley

My talk with Paulerspury Horticultural Society

My talk with Paulerspury Horticultural Society

I had a really great evening yesterday, I was invited to talk to the Paulerspury Horticultural Society about Bell Plantation, how I have developed it over the last 25 years, our plans for the future and our values, plus a bit about growing vegetables, it was good to see so many familiar faces. What on earth could I teach master growers about growing vegetables? We all had a good chat about the Bell Plantation and a small chat about growing veg. I asked what we could do as a business to help Growers and village Hortic Societies. The conversation moved onto the closure of Youngs Nursery at Blisworth. The majority of my Audience loved the professional compost PH from Doncaster that Youngs used to stock, as a result of this we have got a 24 Pallet load arriving here on the 17th April. I also learned of a few other want’s and needs that we will put into action in the future to accommodate the more experienced gardener. Thank you all for the feedback and information it was a pleasure. If you are involved with a Horticultural Society please drop me a line so that I can keep you posted with our new Gardener products.

Camelia2

Magnolias are looking fabulous, at the moment.They are grown for their showy,solitary,fragrant,flowers. They are fully hardy to frost tender depending on variety. They grow well in moist, well-drained, humus rich acid to neutral soil in sun or partial shade, they do not like a windy site, I have one Magnolia grandiflora either side of my front door in a windy position and they are not that happy, struggling to get established, I probably move them at the end of this year.

Sheena walks Minnie our Jack Russell around the fields every day, last Thursday you could see Minnie walking in the rape field, by Saturday you couldn’t see her as the rape had grow several inches in just a few days.

The strong sun this week has warmed the soil and encouraged all the plants to start growing. A few days after the first cut of the lawn is the ideal time to get a weed and feed onto the grass. Remember not to cut the lawn too short on the first cut. It makes really hard work for the mower and the human operator! Lower the mower over the first 3 to 4 cuts to the optimum level.

Have a great weekend

Ashley

April Flowering Plants and Easter

April Flowering Plants and Easter

Not much sun last week suppressed the potential growth in the garden, the lack on sun meant the air was cooler and no solar gain to the soil delaying the full onset of Spring.

Some of the first colour in gardens is provided by flowering cherries, Prunus ‘Kojo- no-mai’ and Prunus incisa ‘Paean’, these are both shrub like plants that eventually grow to height of about 1.5 meters, they are currently covered with pale pink flowers. A larger shrub / tree providing a mass of deep pink flowers is the Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardii Nigra’ (bit of a mouth full) a really great tree/shrub with dark purple foliage, great for early striking colour. I planted a multi stemmed one in my garden last year it was about 3 meters tall, it is delivering the goods covered in flowers. They are a really tough plant that grow well in most soils. They are well suited to the soil type here in sunny South Northants!

prunus kojo

The wind has been a bit of a problem last week, check to see that any newly planted trees or shrubs have been moving around in the soil, if they have fill in the socket formed in the ground with some soil and heel them in firmly, adjust and tighten the tie.

Fertiliser, now is a great time to go around all your plants with a huge bucket of Growmore or Chicken Poo, these granular fertilisers are best put on the ground now so that by the time the plant needs the nutrients the rain should have washed them into the soil. All plants will benefit from a good early feed, you will get better flowering, fruiting, colour, less disease, faster growth, spread the poo nutrients!
If in any doubt about anything in your garden we have a wonderful well experienced team of friendly people here at the Bell Plantation, there is no such thing as a silly question.

I must tell you,(however I am not supposed to market in this blog) we have a wonderful range of Chocolate in the farm shop that has been made in the form of hand tools spanners, paint brushes, nuts and bolts etc. The nut actually is threaded and comes off the bolt!! its very good chocolate too.

I have just put our first Goose eggs of the season into the incubator,I didnt fancy scrambled egg this morning! 37.7 degrees centigrade a bit of humid air for 29 days and we should have some Geese, the wonder of life. Obviously they would be better hatched under a Goose Mrs Goose did not feel like sitting on her eggs at the moment.

turf

We’ve got a pallet of turf in stock if anyone wants a DIY weekend on the lawn. It’s £4.49 a roll or 10 for £40. It is the best quality turf so don’t hesitate.

Have a wonderful Easter, we too will be having the day off on Sunday only (Sunday trading laws), it is one of the 4 days a year we are shut!!
It is a great weekend for family life and of course Gardening.

Happy days

Ashley

Ashley’s Blog

Ashley’s Blog

I am pleased to say that the works on the roundabout seem to be nearing completion. It seems to take for ever to get the last finishing touches together. Already the traffic flows have changed, it now really needs the new traffic lights working to prioritise the flow. I sound like a bit of an expert on traffic flow!! Sheena and I purchased some of the site here at Bell Plantation before the first A5 / A43 roundabout was built back in 1987, when it was just A5 north and south. We purchased the house that Klas Day Nursery now occupy. Since then the whole of the A43 from the M1 to Oxford has been re built, bypassing Towcester and Brackley. As a business trading through the re development of the roundabout has been difficult, I hope once it is complete you will all return to our wonderful family run, friendly business.

We are still recruiting, we need a Chef for the Cafe, full time. We need a front of house person in the Cafe, 10-30 hours a week.We need a Farm shop assistant 20-30 hours a week, so if you know anyone who is interested please drop me an email.

strawberries

We have had so many deliveries of plants in this week, Judy was on her own in the plant area yesterday as Steve had his day off , 5 lorries arrived with plants, Judy was still smiling at the end of the day. We have got a small selection of fruit and vegetables to start off the season, tomatoes included. It is still too cold to put some of these plants outside, however if they are protected from the frost and in some cases given a small amount of heat they will grow on to provide an early crop of vegetables. Traditionally gardeners sowed their first seeds in the vegetable garden under a plastic cloche. Garden Cloches keep in the heat from the sun, the soil warms up more as it is protected from the cooling wind. During the night when there is no sun the warm soil prevents the air in the cloche freezing, this is not enough protection for tender plants ie tomatoes and cucumbers, they will need some heat protection until mid April. Cloches are great for early beetroot, lettuce, cabbage, carrots etc. It is amazing how positioning plants against a sunny wall can make a difference, brick or stone walls absorb a huge amount of heat from the sun, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers etc planted against a wall in a container or in the ground in a grow canopy will be protected from the frost by the residual heat from the wall and the tomato canopy, all this extra heat will allow earlier cropping.

Time to prune roses, I have spoken to the team at David Austin in the past re pruning their roses, they said they prune most of there roses with a hedge cutter!! Shrub roses may be? When you only have one or two it is important they fit your garden and they are growing in the direction and shape you want them. Early in the season you can prune back harder than later in the season. If you prune back hard later in the season it will delay flowering.

Just a quick note!! We have our own Pork sausages available in the Farm Shop in a couple of weeks we will have our home produced beef. A complete, locally grown Sunday lunch in one shop!

Our team look forward to seeing you.

Have a great weekend

Ashley

The sun is shining (apart from this morning)

The sun is shining (apart from this morning)

Ash is off today looking at buying a brand new Shorthorn bull for his herd. They are pretty expensive but can be really worth it if they sire great calves with strong genes.

What a fantastic day it has turned out to be – warm, sunny and clear. All after the most complete solar eclipse since 1999. I watched it from my patio at home and only just saw it through the cloud. It created an unusual atmosphere in the air – cold and a very odd light.

The Garden Centre has been busy today, people buying plants and supplies for the weekend, popping in for a quick lunch or Coffee. We’ve got a really full plant area, lots of stock of herbaceous, bedding and shrubs arriving as we speak. We also have a new specimen area, full of larger, more established plants and loads of alpines which look great with Errington Raey’s courtyard collection – see below.

courtyard

We’ve also had a massive change around in the Farm Shop this week, we’ve replaced the fridges with brand new ones, creating even more space for delicious food.

FS

The roundabout is pretty much finished, at last! The traffic flow is a lot greater than before, they need to get the lights working but at least we aren’t sitting in long queue’s any more.

Pop in this weekend if you’re out an about, we’d love to see you. If not, enjoy the good weather, get out in your gardens.

Regards,

Freddie

Spring into your garden this March

Spring into the garden this March

I have had 10 days off work with a chest infection and have missed most of March, well a third anyway. At this time of year there is so much that can be done in the Garden. This week the soil has started warming up, absorbing the increased energy from the sun. All the tiny little root hairs on the end of large trees to the smallest seedling will be twitching into activity, weeds included.

As I write this the the wind and the sun are drying out the surface of the soil. This is the best time to work the soil as you will cause less damage to the soil structure, good soil structure is essential for good plant growth. Turning over the soil either by digging or rotavating will open up the soil, reducing compaction, incorporate oxygen and create the right soil, air and water balance for great root growth, if you get a chance incorporate organic matter and fertiliser now is a good opportunity.
Obviously, established shrub beds and herbaceous borders may not need digging, however a good mulch every couple of years will help keep the weeds down, increase moisture retention, improve fertility and increase organic matter. All these things will help to make your garden grow better and look more beautiful than it would otherwise have done.

Within the next week or so you can start to plant early potatoes, we have got over 40 varieties available. Good boilers, chippers, mashers etc. Why don’t you grow some for showing at your local village garden show, late summer, autumn its great fun, if you need any info drop me a line or have a word with the Bell Plantation team.

seed potatoes

Now is a great time to plants vegetable seeds if you want to crop them early. Tomato seeds planted in a plastic propagator on the windowsill or heated greenhouse give great results and wonderful for encouraging the next generation of budding gardeners.

If planted now in a propagator in the kitchen, the seeds will take a couple of weeks before they pop up through the compost, they will then grow quickly (depending on heat and light levels) into small plants, about another 2-3 weeks. When about 20-30mm tall plant them into individual 10cm pots, they can then grow in these for another 3-4 weeks before planting in a larger pot or grow-bag. Make sure they are planted outside when frost free or plant them out earlier in a grow frame.

Propergaring Seed

I have started calving my cows at home, we have already had 3 calves another 24 to go. I like to calve the cows in the spring so that there is lots of grass in April for the cows to produce lots of milk for the calves. We will very shortly be introducing our own beef into the farm shop 3-4 weeks. A week on tuesday / wednesday we will have our first lot of home grown pork and sausages for sale, will keep you posted.

Freddie says keep an eye on the website for loads of great deals and opportunities.
We are also recruiting for 4 new positions at he Bell Plantation.
If you would like to join our friendly family business drop me a line ashley@bellplantation.co.uk

Have a great weekend

Ashley

Free Bread Friday + Seed Potato Talk

Free Bread Friday + Seed Potato Talk

Free bread Friday bannerweb2

It’s FREE BREAD FRIDAY at the Plantation Farm Shop this Friday. Spend £5 in store and get a FREE small loaf of freshly baked white or granary bread by Tees in Northampton. It’s only while stocks last so get yours early.

Potato banner

It’s time to start growing your own! Come along to this workshop and our Potato expert Steve will give you all the information you need to grow your very own delicious potatoes. It’s really not as hard as you might think. Whether you are a beginner looking for the basics or an expert looking to hone your skills, Steve will be happy to answer all your questions.

He’ll be covering the following topics:

  • Chitting Potatoes – using seed trays / egg boxes.
  • Soil preparation – getting organic matter into the soil and keeping a good soil structure.
  • Earthing up soil while they’re growing.
  • Harvesting and storage using hessian sacks.
  • Saturday 28th February 2015. 11am – 12noon.

    Give us a call if you want to come a long to this event, or just turn up instead if that suits you.

    Snowdrops – The sign of Spring

    Snowdrops – The sign of Spring

    It’s great to see some growth appearing in the garden, Snowdrops are a delightful early flowering plant, they are a sure sign that Spring is on its way. Snowdrops can be purchased in the Autumn as dried bulbs, this method of growing them is less successful than planting them when they are in the green (as a growing plant). Snowdrops can be purchased in Garden Centres growing in a pot. If you have some already growing in your garden, they can be divided. After they have flowered push your garden fork into the ground beside the clump of snowdrops and ease them gently out of the ground. When the clump is out of the ground divide them into several smaller groups, about 5-7 plants and then re plant elsewhere in the garden. Remember to plant them at the same depth that you found them. The snowdrops will then root in the new site, die back and then will re appear in the next January / February.

    Snow Drops

    When the ground is wet, which is quite frequently at this time of year, it is better to stay off the soil. Working the soil while wet causes compaction, pans on the top etc. Walking on the soil pushes out all the air pockets in the soil and they fill up with water, this creates a less good environment for plant roots to grow.

    If you have peach or cherry trees now is the time to spray the tree with a fungicide to prevent peach leaf curl.
    Planting trees and shrubs at this time of year will enable them to establish without the need for a high labour input from yourselves i.e. watering every day or other day. During the first few months of spring the roots will grow softly and quietly under the ground before the plant comes into leaf. When the leaf does open the roots are already established providing the leaves with food and water. Obviously when it gets very hot you will have to water the plants, however it will be less frequently than would otherwise be required.

    Time to prune roses and fruit. Autumn fruiting raspberries should be pruned right down to the ground.
    We have got tonnes of seed potatoes to choose from earlier, second earlies and maincrop. Now is the time to start chitting first earlies, eyes (embryo shoots) uppermost, place in a single layer in a light frost proof shed or room to encourage the tubers to sprout.

    I am, as usual, really looking forward to the new gardening season ahead. Just in case you didn’t know, we are an independent (one of the few remaining) small, family run businesses who love Gardening. We have a great team of local gardening, cooking and food enthusiasts here at your service.

    Look forward to seeing you.
    Have a great weekend.

    Ashley

    Plant your sweet peas now

    Plant your sweet peas now

    If you want some early Sweet peas (Lathryrus odoratus) now is the time to plant them. Sweet peas are really easy to grow and provide plenty of colour and variety to your garden, some varieties are heavily scented. The seeds are relatively large and easy to handle, great for encouraging children to get gardening. Soak the seeds in water before planting for 12 -24 hours in warm water. Plant the seeds 1 cm below the soil/ compost surface. At this time of year it is best to plant them in small 100mm seed pots, 4 seeds per pot, a clear plastic bag could be placed over the top to create humid conditions, germination will take 7 – 21 days depending on the temperature they experience. When the plant is 100-150mm tall and the root system is developed plant out into the garden or container, protect from hard frost. Climbing sweet peas should be planted where they can climb up a fence of where they can access some form of support. Water and feed and watch them grow. If you miss the fun of growing them from seed they are available at all reputable Garden Centre’s growing in a pot in February, March.

    Sweet Pea

    Congratulations to Steve our Plant area manager and his wife Emma on the birth of their daughter Lily. The first child is always a massive life changer! Steve has got great plans for our plant area this spring. We will be increasing the range of plants we stock and the area. We are lining up some great plant offers with the marketing department (Freddie). It seems that website and social media are the way forward! The mention of our Venison, ‘probably the best in Northamptonshire’ in my blog last week created a sell-out, wow!

    Jo, (Garden Centre retail manager) as we speak is busy banishing all Christmas stock to the store. The shop has been completely turned around, Gardening again takes the pride of place, as it should. Potatoes, seeds, propagation, compost take priority. Christmas occupies a disproportionate amount of our time in relation to the sales, however is essential for our business as we have very little other trade in the dark months of the year. And its great fun!

    When we first opened the Farm Shop in September 14 all the cakes were brought in from outside bakers, I am pleased to say that the majority are all now made on site in the Plantation Café. The Café team are turning out to be Master Bakers too, production and sales increase most weeks.

    I am sad to say that our lovely white Christmas tree (love it or hate it) got stolen from its position adjacent to the metal Cockerill near the roundabout, we think on the evening of Sunday 4th January 2015, if anyone saw anything of note perhaps you could let us know.

    Have a good end to the week and weekend

    Ashley

    Embrace Jack Frost – He can help!

    Embrace Jack Frost – He can help!

    It’s 4.43pm and its still light, things are moving the right way, Spring is moving nearer. However the forecast is terrible for the next week to 10 days. Freezing temperatures and snow. If you have just dug over your vegetable garden you are the lucky one because the water particles in the top layer of soil you have turned over will freeze, when water freezes it expands, the water expanding in the soil will force apart the soil particles and organic matter. When the ice melts the soil particles will fall apart creating a wonderful tilth. “Tilth, the condition of soil or land that has been tilled, esp. with respect to suitability for promoting plant growth”. A good tilth is essential for a good germination % of seeds. The frost is a lot more efficient at breaking down the soil into a good tilth than a spade, rake or rotavator, make the most of it. Try and turn your soil over while there is a chance of frost.

    My tips for this week are: cover up your taps, lift your outdoor pots off the ground onto pot feet, cover up your tender shrubs, coryline, pittosporum, exposed ceanothus etc. Empty your hose pipe of water to prevent splitting even if it’s in a garden shed.

    Seville oranges are now in stock in the Farm Shop if you want to make your annual batch of Marmalade. They will only be available for a few weeks at this time of year. Sheena always makes a bucket load, great for gifts. It is my favourite fruit preserve, I love it on Artisan Crispbread (Best crispbread in the world) and no butter!! Taste the orange.

    Dark, cold evenings are a great time to plan your garden for the coming season, if you need any advice or ideas we are always here to help.

    Seed Potatoes1

    Our Scottish seed potatoes are now in stock, there are offers available. We stock Thompson and Morgan 2.3kg and 1kg bags. If you want to plant some for the first time come and see me.

    Our Marketing department (my son Freddie) tells me that we have got some of probably the best Northamptonshire Venison in stock this weekend? Is this correct?

    Have a great weekend

    Ashley