Seabrook On ... Tapping into home grown enthusiasm

Meadow Croft Garden Centre in South Woodham, Essex, had its busiest weekend ever marking Mothering Sunday. A Pansy & Viola Festival running up to this period, sunny weather and ideal gardening conditions also helped draw the crowds.

Meanwhile, in Newton Abbot, Devon, Fermoys Garden Centre sold two pallets of polythene-clad, flat-pack, small greenhouses in two days following a leaflet drop in the area. The well prepared evidently make hay when the sun shines.

Fermoys director Alan Murdoch told me organic is dead: "It has the connotation of higher prices and acceptable words these days are local and sustainability". He and his business development officer Sarah Dumont are working hard with local schools encouraging them to garden and leading gardening and produce cooking workshops.

A number of their adopted schools are growing crops in wheelbarrows to feature at the Devon County Show, while others are growing crops to build a sustainable and recycling display. We need to support this interest in home growing with sound advice and value-for-money products that work.

Plant benches had far too many winter green vegetable plants on display for my liking last month and not enough hardy, early crop plants such as lettuce, quick maturing broccoli, beetroot, summer cabbage and cauliflower. Our new recruits need quick results to hold their interest. I've seen just one offering of container-grown asparagus and does this have to be £7 for a 3.5-litre pot of an open seeded cultivar?

Meadow Croft has good specimen pots of salads, fruits and vegetables being used as living labels. They are staged alongside suitable containers and support equipment as well as a range of planting material. Pots of watercress that are ready to cut in five weeks from sowing look appetising. Just think how many packets of seed one demo pot could sell and what good value in ironand vitamin C-rich salads it will give.

It is not just garden centres that are going out to schools. Eddie Peeling, head gardener at Grimesthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire, is helping the garden club at his local Edenham primary. Valuable experience such as his needs to be passed down. Teach children and you teach the teachers and parents. We all need to encourage people to garden to retain Britain's fine reputation as a nation of good gardeners.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster


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