Veg grower & expert opens ‘Grow Your Own Zone’

A CELEBRATED organic vegetable grower and supplier to some of the nation’s top restaurants was the guest of honour at the special launch of a Grow Your Own (GYO) Zone at a Somerset garden centre last Saturday (April 4).

John Rowswell from Barrington near Ilminster took part in the official ribbon cutting ceremony to declare the GYO area open at Monkton Elm Garden & Pet Centre at Monkton Heathfield, between Taunton and Bridgwater, on Saturday, April 4 at 10am.

The launch event was part of the garden centre’s Grow Your Own Weekend (April 4 & 5), which was held for anyone interested in finding out how to sow seeds, plant up growbags and vegetable plots and grow their own food.

Garden centre General Manager, Norma Moore said: “We were delighted John was able to join us for the ribbon cutting ceremony. John is an inspiration to all of us aspiring vegetable growers, as he was just five-years-old when he grew his first radish.

“I understand John grows 50 different kinds of vegetables including nine different varieties of tomato such as Siberian blacks, ferline, tangy golden sunrise and Brandywine, which is an old-fashioned French heirloom variety. He was a fascinating person for us to have on-site for the GYO Zone launch and I’m sure our visitors on the day took good advantage of his expertise to help them with their vegetable growing plans this year.”

On the 27 acres John uses for production, he has planted a quarter of a million cabbages, 12 different kinds of squash, golden raspberries, celeriac, black French beans, asparagus and half a million leeks.

Norma continued: “It was wonderful that John spared us some time to open our designated Grow Your Own Zone, which is designed to ensure everything, anyone considering growing their own fruit and veggies this year might need or want is in the same place.

“So, for example, if they want to plant tomatoes in a growbag then they can find the plants, the growbags, the plant feed and the supports all together. Making it much easier for the individual to find what they need all in one go.”

The garden centre team held free demonstrations during the weekend to help visitors who would like to find out more about growing their own food.

Norma added: “Grow your own or GYO is going to be big this year. People with everything from allotments to patios will be looking to produce food from their outdoor spaces to help with the spiralling costs of supermarket shopping. They are also realising that home-grown produce tastes better and is healthier for you. Sales of vegetable seeds are definitely outstripping flower seeds again this year. Everyone’s going GYO mad.”

Representatives from Taunton Beekeepers Association were also on-site during the weekend to talk to people about the importance of bees with regards gardening and grow your own.

“The team at the garden centre can also offer lots of free advice on what to plant, where and when, whether you’re a beginner gardener or a more experienced one. We can advise on everything from composts to watering techniques. Anyone with any gardening queries should come in and ask us for help. We’re always pleased to be of assistance.”

To find out more, please visit Monkton Elm Garden & Pet Centre, which is located just off the A38 at Monkton Heathfield between Bridgwater and Taunton. 

Alternatively, please call the garden centre on 01823 412381 or visit