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I got the almond tree this afternoon and I must thank you for selecting a nice one, I am very pleased, many thanks, I'll be back
John Nagle, Bognor Regis

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I got the almond tree this afternoon and I must thank you for selecting a nice one, I am very pleased, many thanks, I'll be back
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Spring Has Nearly Sprung!

And now we are in Lent. Part of the Christian observance is to fast - to abstain from flesh (meat, eggs and dairy) for forty days. Up until 1650 you could apply to the Bishop to eat meat in Lent if you had good reason - that is if you were sick, pregnant, a nursing mother or (as is so often the case) rich! Its actually interesting to note that around the world the fasting periods ritualised by various religions - the solemn four week Advent fast and six week Lenten one - in fact traditionally corresponded to times when there was hardly anything to eat! This rhythm of time and place is very old in our habits and ways of eating; abstinence as a necessary precursor to plenty, fast sharpening the appetite for feast.

In the Kitchen Gardener's Calendar March is often called the 'hungry gap' - stored crops are all but exhausted and there is little fresh to harvest direct from the garden. With Supermarkets only too happy to import from anywhere (even crops that are seasonal to us here now) it is very easy to fall into the trap of satisfying your hunger from abroad; but the reality is imported fruit and vegetables do not prepare us for our own April bounty - too alien, too luxurious and too out of place! Better to eat Kale and Turnips now and hold brightly to thoughts of Spring Vegetables to come. Don't give up meat, give up imported fruit and vegetables for Lent!

At last the weather seems to have turned. After a grotty first week, March now seems to be cheering up - and we have finally been able to make a start on sorting out our shrubs beds! Under glass our prop area is crammed and pricking out of young vegetable plants and pretty plants is well underway - at last light conditions are improving. Soft fruit cuttings are also on basal heat- it's amazing what a few sunny days can do.

At home, you should be sowing your seeds and starting your young plants - it's still cold both during the day and night so don't be in too much of a hurry for outdoor sowings - or planting out un-hardened plants (anything from us is hardened before dispatch) unless you are going to protect. But that long Winter and the continued cold does have one advantage in that the bare root season is extended - you still have plenty of time to plant bare root fruit tree, soft fruits raspberries and all sorts.

That means March is a really really busy month in the garden - the more done now the more you will achieve later and the bigger your Spring, Summer and Autumn feasts!