The Bell Plantation Questionnaire

Your Name

Your Address

Your Phone Number

Your Email

Your Message

Q1) How do you know of the Bell Plantation Garden Centre:

Q2) Are you a keen gardener:

Q3) How often do you visit garden centres:

Q4) Is your garden:

Q5) What do you mostly buy from a garden centre:

Q6) Do you have any pets:

Q7) Do you grow any fruits and vegetables:

Q8) If yes, what do you mainly grow:

Q9) Do you use the restaurant facilities:

Q10) Do you have a gardener:

Q11) Do you have any children, and if so how many:

Q12) Do you play any garden sports:

Q13) Do you have any of the following:

Q14) Do you have any garden lighting:

Once you have completed the above questionnaire you will be able to download your £5 voucher (to download click on the word “here” in the text that is generated below the Send button after submitting the questionnaire) to spend on our vast range of garden plants. You will also be added to our newsletter, packed with the latest news & special offers from the Bell Plantation. You may unsubscribe from our newsletter at any time, simply follow the unsubscribe link which can be found at the bottom of every newsletter email.

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

    Bell Plantation Update

    Bell Plantation Update

    Happy New Year. Let’s hope in 2015 we get at least average gardening weather. Average weather enables us to predict quite accurately how our business will perform, that is if we run it properly and are surrounded by like-minded people. I am one of the luckiest Guys having my hobbies as my business. Retirement? Never. Could do without the cash flow issues! Anyway being a family business is a wonderful way to live your life. Sheena and I are very fortunate to have our daughter and one son Sophie and Freddie working in the business. They are becoming keen gardeners despite being weaned on gardening.
    This month we will do all our buying for next Christmas 2015 while it is fresh in our memory. We have got great (massive) plans for Christmas 2015.

    In the Farm shop this January we are promoting a lot of healthy (slimming) foods, great recipes and food products that are available through the Spring months. We were guinea pigs in the office for a Sarah smoothie, Beetroot, winter berries etc.? It was so good it’s now available in the Café and all the ingredients are in the Farm Shop.

    I sound like a scratched record the way I go on about putting more organic matter in/on your soil! This is just a reminder that this is a great time of year to put a good mulch ,50mm plus of organic matter all over your shrub beds before the bulbs come up. They will grow through a pretty thick covering of bark mulch, peat, compost.
    Alternatively spread the organic matter all over the veg patch and dig it in a spade depth. If the soil’s right most other things will be easier.

    January can be a quiet time in the garden, most garden plants are taking a rest before the Spring. However, there are always exceptions and one of those is the wonderful Heather! This little beauty really comes into its own during this quiet period – its colourful small flowers can bring a riot of colour to an otherwise muted garden palette. Flowering through the snow, they look best on those crisp mornings as you look out your windows!

    Heather

    Heather (Erica) is versatile and robust – it looks fabulous planted in the ground but also looks great in pots and planters. This colourful little shrub generally reaches about 25cm in height and therefore is well suited for planting in the front of your border. The delicate, bell-shaped flowers of the heather plant come in many shades – reds, pinks, purples and whites, it can flower well into April guaranteeing you a winter full of colour!

    An added bonus with this plant is that it is particularly magnetic to bees and flying insects as it provides winter nectar and is a great early pollen source for our ever diminishing bee population. Many heathers are food plants for over 30 butterfly and moth species.

    Have a great weekend

    Ashley

    Christmas Clearance Sale

    Christmas Sale

    We now have 50% off all Christmas decorations including artificial Christmas trees, Christmas lights and decorations. Hurry while stocks last.

    Christmas Trees from Scotland. Farm shop bursting with food, fruit and wine.

     

    Christmas Trees from Scotland. Farm shop bursting with food, fruit and wine.

    Well, the festive period is well underway. I was a bit preoccupied last weekend (the busiest weekend in December) with my son Freddie and Alice’s wedding. Blue sky, sun and frost, perfect thank you.

    I am pleased to say the traffic on the A5 south is now flowing a lot better since they reopened 2 lanes onto the roundabout from the north. We have had 4 weeks of lower than normal trade due to the roadwork’s. Touch wood the traffic flow all round seems to be much improved. However we only need a snarl up on the M1 and everything locally will be blocked again.

    It has been announced this week that Poddington Garden Centre near Northampton has been purchased by Wyevale. A family Garden Centre business started in 1976. There are becoming fewer and fewer independent Garden Centres. It gives us a greater chance to cater for customers who are looking for something a little different. Which I hope we do?

    Christmas at the Bell Plantation

    “Christmas at the Bell Plantation”

    Our Christmas trees from Scotland this year are beautiful. If you can keep some water in your tree stand this will help to keep the tree looking fresh. Try not to place your tree in the hottest room or near a heat source.

    Poinsettias always remind me of my cycling trip to Vietnam, they grow abundantly by the side of many of the roads we cycled. They all had a full set of leaves and no clear stems. They like to be in the warm, not hot rooms, they like full light but not direct sun through the glass, they don’t like being in cold draughts or being overwatered, water with luke warm water sparingly.

    We have got a huge range of house plants and planted containers for you to choose from.

    The Farm shop is bursting with gorgeous tasting food, fruit and wine.

    Sheena’s selection of decorations and gifts are also proving to be very popular this year.

     

    If you have got time to get out in the Garden, winter pruning can be started on ornamental shrubs, trees and fruit trees. The recent wind may have prompted cutting back roses and wisteria already, better to cut it off that have it flapping around.

    There is never a bad time to put organic matter onto the soil as a mulch or to dig in.

     

    Look forward to seeing you this weekend!

    Regards,

    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

    Bell Plantation Update

    Bell Plantation Update

    Happy New Year. Let’s hope in 2015 we get at least average gardening weather. Average weather enables us to predict quite accurately how our business will perform, that is if we run it properly and are surrounded by like-minded people. I am one of the luckiest Guys having my hobbies as my business. Retirement? Never. Could do without the cash flow issues! Anyway being a family business is a wonderful way to live your life. Sheena and I are very fortunate to have our daughter and one son Sophie and Freddie working in the business. They are becoming keen gardeners despite being weaned on gardening.
    This month we will do all our buying for next Christmas 2015 while it is fresh in our memory. We have got great (massive) plans for Christmas 2015.

    In the Farm shop this January we are promoting a lot of healthy (slimming) foods, great recipes and food products that are available through the Spring months. We were guinea pigs in the office for a Sarah smoothie, Beetroot, winter berries etc.? It was so good it’s now available in the Café and all the ingredients are in the Farm Shop.

    I sound like a scratched record the way I go on about putting more organic matter in/on your soil! This is just a reminder that this is a great time of year to put a good mulch ,50mm plus of organic matter all over your shrub beds before the bulbs come up. They will grow through a pretty thick covering of bark mulch, peat, compost.
    Alternatively spread the organic matter all over the veg patch and dig it in a spade depth. If the soil’s right most other things will be easier.

    January can be a quiet time in the garden, most garden plants are taking a rest before the Spring. However, there are always exceptions and one of those is the wonderful Heather! This little beauty really comes into its own during this quiet period – its colourful small flowers can bring a riot of colour to an otherwise muted garden palette. Flowering through the snow, they look best on those crisp mornings as you look out your windows!

    Heather

    Heather (Erica) is versatile and robust – it looks fabulous planted in the ground but also looks great in pots and planters. This colourful little shrub generally reaches about 25cm in height and therefore is well suited for planting in the front of your border. The delicate, bell-shaped flowers of the heather plant come in many shades – reds, pinks, purples and whites, it can flower well into April guaranteeing you a winter full of colour!

    An added bonus with this plant is that it is particularly magnetic to bees and flying insects as it provides winter nectar and is a great early pollen source for our ever diminishing bee population. Many heathers are food plants for over 30 butterfly and moth species.

    Have a great weekend

    Ashley

    Christmas Clearance Sale

    Christmas Sale

    We now have 50% off all Christmas decorations including artificial Christmas trees, Christmas lights and decorations. Hurry while stocks last.

    Christmas Trees from Scotland. Farm shop bursting with food, fruit and wine.

     

    Christmas Trees from Scotland. Farm shop bursting with food, fruit and wine.

    Well, the festive period is well underway. I was a bit preoccupied last weekend (the busiest weekend in December) with my son Freddie and Alice’s wedding. Blue sky, sun and frost, perfect thank you.

    I am pleased to say the traffic on the A5 south is now flowing a lot better since they reopened 2 lanes onto the roundabout from the north. We have had 4 weeks of lower than normal trade due to the roadwork’s. Touch wood the traffic flow all round seems to be much improved. However we only need a snarl up on the M1 and everything locally will be blocked again.

    It has been announced this week that Poddington Garden Centre near Northampton has been purchased by Wyevale. A family Garden Centre business started in 1976. There are becoming fewer and fewer independent Garden Centres. It gives us a greater chance to cater for customers who are looking for something a little different. Which I hope we do?

    Christmas at the Bell Plantation

    “Christmas at the Bell Plantation”

    Our Christmas trees from Scotland this year are beautiful. If you can keep some water in your tree stand this will help to keep the tree looking fresh. Try not to place your tree in the hottest room or near a heat source.

    Poinsettias always remind me of my cycling trip to Vietnam, they grow abundantly by the side of many of the roads we cycled. They all had a full set of leaves and no clear stems. They like to be in the warm, not hot rooms, they like full light but not direct sun through the glass, they don’t like being in cold draughts or being overwatered, water with luke warm water sparingly.

    We have got a huge range of house plants and planted containers for you to choose from.

    The Farm shop is bursting with gorgeous tasting food, fruit and wine.

    Sheena’s selection of decorations and gifts are also proving to be very popular this year.

     

    If you have got time to get out in the Garden, winter pruning can be started on ornamental shrubs, trees and fruit trees. The recent wind may have prompted cutting back roses and wisteria already, better to cut it off that have it flapping around.

    There is never a bad time to put organic matter onto the soil as a mulch or to dig in.

     

    Look forward to seeing you this weekend!

    Regards,

    Ashley