Blink and its already February! Good bye and hello Christmas, next week we will be completing our purchases for Christmas 2104! Lots of new exciting products will appear next October, not too early! We have finally packed the remnants of 2013 away.

Although there may not be a lot of Gardening going on this wet January, we have been busy changing the shop around. We have brought all our Gardening products up into the shop to try and make life easier for everyone. Our garden furniture, bbq’s, etc are now down in the glass garden shop. Jo and the team have done a great job getting it all moved around.

As I mentioned I am inspired by The Italian food culture, to follow is a piece written by Paulo owner of Franchi seeds “There is a Greek tomato grower in Enfield that we supply with our tomato seeds and he grows them for restaurants. I had tried almost all our tomato varieties, but Pantano from Rome (Lazio) was one of the few varieties I had not yet got round to growing. So my Greek friend brings me 3 trays of this tomato and enthusiastically gives me one to try. it is warm, soft, my hand smells of the plant. I wipe it, I bite it……… wow! I can really say that it was one of the best tomatoes I have ever eaten and now from this year it WILL be in my plot every year. I can’t recommend it enough and the green shoulders will mature out. It’s a medium sized beef, not large but a good size. It was the quality of flavour that this Roman variety really hit me with”.

Of course tomatoes were bought back by Columbus into Spain, but being Italian he introduced them straight into Italy who have really made the tomato their own and our varieties are very much regional ones. A very good all-rounder to grow is Semi Plum Tomato Roma which is a bush so no need to take out the side shoots and it is meaty enough to cook and sweet enough to eat. Ideal for the balcony, container or grow bag. These tomatoes have very few seeds inside and thin skin and they have some resistance to disease.” My mouth is watering, this year we have doubled the size of our Franchii seed stand. Franchi have been growing their own seeds since 1783 rather than having them contract grown like many other larger companies.

If you can get out in the Garden and it’s not too wet under foot, it’s a good time to rake/fork over your shrub beds to remove all the dead vegetation from last year. As the ground is clear, except for a few bulbs starting to poke through, spread 50mm of mulch from your compost bin, bark mulch, or any other organic matter. This mulch will help in a multitude of ways, supress weed growth through the next growing season, increase fertility of the soil, retain moisture in the soil (during the summer its useful), improve the soil structure, increase micro-organisms and it makes the garden look tidy.

Keep thinking about what food you would like to grow next season, soon be time to plant.

Have a great weekend

Ashley Warren

Ashley Warren has lived and loved horticulture and agriculture all his life; he had his first greenhouse at the age of 10 and his first cow when he was 16. He started landscaping in 1984 mainly in Milton Keynes and then all over the country. He moved to Daventry Road Farmhouse in 1987 and has developed Bell Plantation Garden Centre in Towcester, Northants over the last 30 years.

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