Thursday 10 September 2015

Roots and Shoots Garden at The Alnwick Garden

Root and Shoots Garden The Alnwick Garden Northumberland
A trip to Northumberland would not be complete without a visit to Alnwick. A fine selection of independent shops and cafés plus one of the largest second hand bookshops in the world in the form of Barter Books. We also find it difficult not find time to go round The Alnwick Garden.
As we didn't have enough time to go all the way round The Alnwick Garden we couldn't justify the expense of buying tickets for all us. Thankfully one of my favourite parts of the garden is completely free to go in so off to the Roots and Shoots Garden we went.
Last year when we went into Roots and Shoots Garden I rushed in just before it was about to close. Fitting everything in does seem to be a problem when visiting Northumberland! This time we had much more time to look around and appreciate the work that is done in this garden.
Since we visited three weeks later than last year I was worried that the garden may have looked a little bare. How wrong I was! I guess knowing what a slickly run operation the Alnwick Garden is I shouldn't have been surprised.
The Roots and Shoots Garden project is now its seventh year. This walled space was the site of the former kitchen garden so it is perfectly positioned to work as a fruit and vegetable garden. The current kitchen garden isn't designed to produce food for the The Alnwick Garden's restaurants and cafés. It is part of an ongoing programme to help teach the importance of growing food and where it comes from.
Each year a number of local schools get the chance to visit the Roots and Shoots Garden to learn the skills required to look after their schools' allotments. Staff from The Alnwick Garden also go out to the schools to offer advice and cookery lessons.
It's not just children that benefit from the Roots and Shoots Garden either. A number of courses are run through the summer months for adults to learn vital skills in the quest for self-sufficiency when it comes to growing fruit and vegetables.

I never went inside the polytunnel last year and boy was it hot in there! It is certainly doing its job of helping the impressive grapevine grow. I'm not sure if the grapes were an eating or wine-making variety but I was very tempted to try one.
Like many kitchen gardens set up in this way there is an emphasis on growing heritage varieties. The polytunnel was also home to a range of tomatoes including this 'German Red Strawberry' one. Apparently it is the best tomato to put in a sandwich although I'm not sure what the requirements for that involves!
Despite the large number of visitors to the garden there are some traditional forms of bird deterrent. A fine selection of scarecrows overlook the year's hard work.
Whatever your size of plot at home there's inspiration to be found here. If your choice is raised beds you can choose from ones filled with large pumpkins or even an apple tree in the middle.
If you have a more traditional flat bed space go for leaves, potatoes, onions and even some sweetcorn.
Whatever you find lying around can be turned into a potential growing space. A collection of polystyrene boxes are now the home for salad leaves.

As with any fruit and vegetable garden flowers play an important part in order to encourage pollinators to come and do their job. Need a planter? Just find an old boot!
We left with an unanswered question. What was the fruit going up the wall? I thought it was an apricot tree but plum was also offered up. It must have been the only crop without a name label on. Answers in the comments below!

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