Deep roots

Sandridge nurs­ery with gen­er­a­tions of knowl­edge

Hertfordshire Life - - CONTENTS - WORDS: Philippa Pear­son

Get­ting your fruit and veg­eta­bles from a su­per­mar­ket may be con­ve­nient, but if you care about taste, flavour and the air miles of your pro­duce, then lo­cally-grown is the way to go.

Car­pen­ter’s Nurs­ery in the vil­lage of Sandridge near St Al­bans cer­tainly has a good track record of grow­ing its own fruit and veg, with four gen­er­a­tions of grow­ing ex­per­tise.

‘We are one of the old­est nurs­eries and farm shops in Hert­ford­shire,’ says di­rec­tor James Car­pen­ter, ‘and proud to be a fam­ily nurs­ery that cares about grow­ing pro­duce.’

James’ great-grandad Fred Car­pen­ter started the nurs­ery in 1923 just af­ter the First World War us­ing six al­lot­ments. With lim­ited re­sources and ameni­ties, Fred ini­tially con­cen­trated on grow­ing sea­sonal fruit, veg­eta­bles and cut flow­ers which were sold at St Al­bans Mar­ket and in the sur­round­ing vil­lages. In 1947, his son Fred ju­nior joined the busi­ness and set about build­ing a re­tail nurs­ery, in­stalling mains elec­tric­ity and an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem which laid the foun­da­tions for the nurs­ery to­day. Then in 1978, James’ fa­ther Stephen joined, fol­lowed by Stephen’s brother

Colin in 1984. They worked along­side Fred un­til his re­tire­ment in 1995.

Stephen con­cen­trated on fruit and veg­eta­bles while Colin fo­cussed on grow­ing or­na­men­tal plants. To­day, the nurs­ery con­tin­ues this dual ethos and pro­vides good se­lec­tions of home­grown ed­i­ble and or­na­men­tal plants. James took over the run­ning of the nurs­ery three years ago, hav­ing orig­i­nally been an elec­tri­cian.

‘We are still quite tra­di­tional in our grow­ing meth­ods on the nurs­ery,’ he says, ‘as we like to plant ev­ery­thing by hand and don’t rely on big me­chan­i­cal ma­chines to grow and har­vest ev­ery­thing.’

This ap­proach in an in­creas­ingly hi-tech world is part of the charm of this small fam­ily nurs­ery which many cus­tomers en­joy and ap­pre­ci­ate.

Many plants are grown from seed at the nurs­ery, in­clud­ing all the veg­eta­bles and a fair amount of sea­sonal bed­ding plants. Ed­i­ble pro­duce is of­ten for sale in the farm shop within a cou­ple of hours of be­ing har­vested.

With 10 acres of the site open farm­land ded­i­cated to veg­eta­bles and flow­ers, this means around 15,000 cauliflower plants, for ex­am­ple, are grown from seed and planted out each year. The re­main­der of the nurs­ery con­sists of green­houses, grow­ing tun­nels, the farm shop, in­door and out­door dis­play ar­eas and a car park.

As ex­perts in grow­ing pro­duce, the nurs­ery also has lots of young plants for sale and is an ex­cel­lent place to buy good qual­ity plants for your own veg­etable beds or al­lot­ment. There’s a wide va­ri­ety of hy­brid veg­etable plants from beans and pep­pers to toma­toes and cour­gettes, as well as win­ter crops and herbs. The nurs­ery also stocks seed pota­toes, onion sets and fruit trees.

‘We are still quite tra­di­tional in our grow­ing meth­ods’

Sea­sonal or­na­men­tal plants to look out for at Car­pen­ter’s this month in­clude vi­o­las, pan­sies, prim­roses and field-grown wallflow­ers, all grown on the nurs­ery. From De­cem­ber, Christ­mas trees will be avail­able with many sourced from Hert­ford­shire. Keep­ing things lo­cal is an im­por­tant and sus­tain­able ethos for the nurs­ery. As well as their own pro­duce and plants, there’s a good choice of county prod­ucts in the shop as James is keen to source from lo­cal or small in­de­pen­dent pro­duc­ers and up­dates the ‘Made in Hert­ford­shire’ map in the shop reg­u­larly. Look out for the great range of jams, juices, chut­neys, oils, bread, milk, cheese and much more.

There’s also the lovely Pot­ting Shed Gar­den Kitchen and Cafe on site, where you can en­joy break­fast, lunch and af­ter­noon tea us­ing many of the in­gre­di­ents grown here. N

VISIT CAR­PEN­TER’S NURS­ERY

106 St Al­bans Road Sandridge nr St Al­bans AL4 9LJ

01727 853340 car­pen­ter­snurs­ery.co.uk Mon-Sat 8.30am-5.30pm and Sun 9am-4pm

Founder Fred Car­pen­ter se­nior with sons An­drew and Stephen c.1955 on a Massey Fer­gu­son trac­tor – the nurs­ery’s first trac­tor

Sun­flow­ers – one of the many or­na­men­tal plants grown on the site

Freshly-har­vested veg­eta­bles are for sale in the farm shop within hours

The nurs­ery’s de­liv­ery van in 1972

TOP:Check­ing toma­toes for the farm shop

LEFT: Har­vest­ing but­ter­nut squash

ABOVE:The nurs­ery is renowned for its bed­ding plants grown on site

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